Glass & steel

At 6100 Michigan Ave., just east of Livernois, sits an old, scarred building.

Here, where coal and steel processing once thrived, the Nordin family has established two businesses, Detroit Design Center and Furnace Hot Glass Works. The first is an interior design fabricator, the latter focuses on glass production. The glass often features in the ornamental and practical creations that go into interior design jobs.

“When we bought the building [in 1993] you could tell that first it was used for coal, then steel,” Erik Nordin remembers. “We found rail tracks when breaking up the floor.”

Erik’s father, Ron, initially ran a steel-processing business out of the building.

“We were Bulldog Steel,” Erik says. “My father was a broker and brokered out coiled steel. … It’s what taught us about business.”

The patriarch was unsure of developing a business that focused on art and design, but he’s seen the light.

“We had to put food on the table until we got the art thing going,” Erik’s brother Israel says. “He [father] was never opposed to us doing it, just skeptical about it. At this point it’s sinking in that there is now enough art business.”

“We said, ‘Let’s do this,’ so we do this and have a space to do what we want, and that’s how the building evolved,” a third brother, Chris, says.

Chris and his wife, Michelle Plucinsky, immediately established Furnace Hot Glass Works on the site in 1993. Each received degrees from the Center for Creative Studies and have trained at Pilchuck Glass School in Washington and Peland School of Crafts in North Carolina. They’ve taught at CCS and have fabricated light fixtures for such sites as C-Pop Gallery, the Detroit Institute of Arts and Charley’s Crab in Troy.

They’re currently preparing for a Christmas glass show that will feature some of their unique wares — Christmas ornaments, giftware, goblets, vases and other handcrafted glass. A free show takes place each weekend, starting Nov. 21, and events run until Dec. 20. Photos and directions can be seen on

The interior design wing of the business — Detroit Design Center — was launched a couple of years ago after the brothers decided to stop producing steel. They wed their knowledge of the materials with their artistic impulses and work ethic. It’s only the four of them — the brothers and Michelle — cutting, grinding, welding.

Chris and Michelle do the majority of the glass production. Israel and Erik tend to work with wood and steel, though Michelle just got her welding certification.

Erik attended University of Michigan on a music scholarship and is part owner of the the Charles apartment complex at West Willis and Second Street. His renovations and landscaping have drastically transformed the once lonely corner. He also teaches percussion and vibes at Marygrove College.

Israel recently graduated from CCS and is a multitalented wonder. He’s not above crafting swirling glass dildos (balls optional).

Much of their work is in Detroit’s private offices, lofts, apartments, restaurants and nightspots.

An early project was for the Pike Street Restaurant in Pontiac, a fierce sculptural design of glass, stainless steel and wood. The piece weaves a variety of textures that are unmatched in cast and form.

“We try to pick a person’s brain and find what they want,” Erik says. “This one guy liked boats, so we made a Chris-Craft desk, sun- and moon-like tables. We sandblasted the wood to look like a dock, made a table like a boat. He creamed … got all excited ’cause he got what he wanted.”

Designer Johnny Januira had the Nordins help with the Congress Restaurant and Lounge below Panacea in Detroit. There, they renovated the staircase and walls with heavy, angular steel.

As more businesses locate in Detroit’s old buildings, renovations will be needed. The Nordins are poised to respond.

“By living here, dumping money into the city, constantly, the city has become a big part of my family,” Erik says.

E-mail Scott Harrison at [email protected]