| Follow Us:



Detroit Design Center

6100 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48210

Erik Nordin

By Tunde Wey
April 24, 2013

Erik and Israel Nordin are the artists-cum-makers behind Detroit Design Center, where they work in glass, wood, metal, stone, and other media to create furniture, accessories, sculptures, lights and more.

Their work is diverse and inspired, from the whimsical and colorful to the looming and muted. They create the most unbelievably intricate objects from the least malleable materials; bending steel and blowing glass to conform to the fantasies of clients.
The brothers began Detroit Design Center in 2000, when Israel, the younger of the two, was just coming out of college. Erik, a musician, had been playing obscure gigs for a while before they began; for him it seemed the sensible bet was on a career in fine art.

Like their pieces – gilded with working class sensibility and dedication with its element of steel and metal, an hommage to Detroit’s industrial past – the brothers were nonfrivolous at the beginning. They were literally boot-strapped, funding the business with existing clients, and then moving on to the next job. Over the last thirteen years they steadily grew their business, aware of changing circumstances and responding accordingly.
"We started with basically zero. We would do one job and get paid off that. When we started we were doing one job at a time, now we juggle six to ten jobs at a time. The first job we got was actually for a restaurant; we started doing restaurants, then residential work, and then corporate work. We kind of weaved ourselves in and out of these different communities of work. It was all based on the economy; when the economy tanked five years ago, no one was opening restaurants, so we started designing furniture," says Erik.
The evenness with which they seem to embrace business, dealing with clients expectations, deadlines, materials, and navigating the sometimes opposing aesthetics of each other, is abandoned in the pieces they create, which are rich with detail, mild eccentricity and life.
One of their works, a fish aquarium with a blown-glass coral reef centerpiece, demonstrates the intricacy, dedication, and unbelievable craftsmanship behind the brothers’ work.
This underwater piece was housed in a ten-foot long aquarium, holding 700 gallons of salt water. For the piece, called Three Brains, they studied fish, oceanic colors and aquatic life, researching the minutest details of coral movement and texture to create 20 distinct coral species, blowing over 100 pieces and spending the better part of six months to complete the project. The aquarium, with coral pieces as small as a few inches tall to larger thinly-blown glass coral pieces shimmering 39 inches tall, sits in the Quicken Loans downtown headquarters.
There are other stupendously imaginative and oversized pieces, like the steel and glass menorah for Hanukkah. The piece, which thrilled thousands of downtown visitors when it was lit, stood at 25 feet tall with a 16-foot wingspan. Then there was the “D Burst" – a ten-by-nine-foot circular sculpture, with a large red “D” in its center and around 75 curved steel tubes surrounding it – lowered in sync with the New Year's countdown heralding 2013 under the cheers of 15,000 spectators.
Everything the Nordin brothers do is inspired by the city, which is alive in their sprawling work space on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Livernois. It is here they create their custom pieces, stamping and flattening metal, welding, blowing and dreaming of ways to excite their audience. Erik sums it up nicely, saying, "The idea of our work is that there are many places in Detroit that could use art." And lucky are the places blessed by such imaginative work.

Photograph by Marvin Shaouni Photography.

Share this page
Signup for Email Alerts

Twitter Feed

Related Resources

  • Hatch Detroit
    Hatch Detroit is a vehicle to champion and support independent retail businesses in Detroit through funding, exposure, education, and mentoring.

  • Southwest Business Association
    The Association is a coalition of businesses and community interests committed to facilitating the continuation and enhancement of a stable, economically healthy Southwest Detroit.
  • Detroit Creative Corridor Center
    At DC3, it's all about Detroit as a global center of creative innovation. DC3 provides business acceleration expertise, relocation services and talent development programs to ensure this vision becomes a reality.