Creating one-of-a-kind pieces that work in their space most effectively is what Israel Nordin does best. Through precise design and flawless fabrication, Israel and his brother Erik Nordin seek to take conventional pieces of decor and take them beyond their utility stage. The result? Spaces that truly inspire.
The Nordin brothers are co-owners of the Detroit Design Center, a Michigan Avenue-based studio where they have been making furniture, sculpture, gates, railings, lighting and other types of functional art for residential and commercial clients since 2001.
"I've been blessed to have found a career that I find so rewarding," said Israel Nordin, who majored in crafts. "Detroit has been an ideal location for our business. We've found an amazing audience of people who appreciate our work."
Demonstrations at historical settings (Dearborn’s Greenfield Village, Flint’s Crossroads Village and Holly’s Renaissance Festival among others) are often the only exposure people have to metalworking and glassblowing. But these unique crafts are not arts of the past; they also serve many modern aesthetic and functional needs. Particularly, their use in interiors has become trendy among hip nightclubs and local bistros as well as a unique aspect of residential and public spaces.
“Upon graduation I noticed there was a demand for design problem solving in the city,” said Nordin. “People knew what they wanted, but had limited options. This is the reason we created the Detroit Design Center. Initially, clients approached us to see if their ideas were possible and we found ways to make them work. Over time, our emphasis has shifted from creating outside designs to fabricating our own ideas.”
Over the past twelve years, the Nordins have created work for several local clients, including a fishtank visible to the corporate conference room and lobby area of Quicken Loans, a 24 foot steel/copper/glass menorah for Campus Martius, the "D" for the 2012-2013 New Year Detroit "D" Drop as well as other work for The Madison Theater, Mosaic Restaurant, Chen Chow, Plum Market, Vinology, 24 Grill, Ronin Sushi, Duo and other area businesses and private homes. They've won several design awards and been featured in local television, print and online media.
"We started out doing a lot of works for clubs and eventually evolved into more residential work," Nordin explained. "Then we moved more into corporate and public space design. Our newest focus has been trophy design. We've created five in the past year... While we're somewhat specialized in our work, we don't feel as though we're locked down. We're always open to new challenges."
Years of experience and in-depth education at CCS prepared Nordin for the challenges of creating exquisite art while, at the same time, managing the administrative side of his business.
He majored in industrial design during his first year at CCS, but later graduated from the crafts department with a dual concentration in glass and ceramics.
“I cared for both mediums—I could not choose between them,” said Nordin. “Going back and forth between the two disciplines prepared me for the future. I feel comfortable working on three or more jobs at one time because of this early training.”
Active in CCS’ creative community, Nordin often participated in school sponsored art shows. In 1998, profits raised from student work went toward sending the entire department to Seto, Japan, to attend the first Glass Art Society conference held outside of the continental United States.
“CCS gave me the confidence to turn my craft into something profitable.”
“This trip opened my eyes to crafts on a global level. It showed me that there were people all over the world trying to make a difference, just like me.”
As a student, Nordin had the opportunity to work closely with instructors Herb Babcock, Tom Phardel, Hank Adams and Rick Prukler, as well as with his brother Chris Nordin ('91) who co-owns Furnace Design Studio in Dearborn.
“My instructors always took the time to listen and offer advice," said Nordin. "We've kept in touch over the years, and I felt so honored that they recently came out to support me at my last show....
"My brother, Chris, was always there to give me his honest opinion and a hand if I needed it. Having someone close, doing the same thing as me, gave me the confidence to dedicate my life to art.”
In addition to providing high quality functional art, Nordin believes in the importance of supporting up-and-coming artists and networking with other creative professionals.
"For the past ten years, we've opened our doors to several local artists seeking studio space," Nordin said. "This has been beneficial to both of us as it gives the artists a place to work and helps us find professionals to collaborate with on upcoming projects. It's a win-win situation, and we love being able to give back to a community that's given us so much."
Check out detroitdesigncenter.com for more information about Nordin’s Detroit-based studio.