Often utilizing materials at his disposal to incorporate into artwork, Niko Dimitrijevic's is both an artist and a glassblower who has created hand-crafted installations to bring new perspective to the world around him.
"My maternal grandfather was an artist, but realistically speaking, my mom's whole family was from Northern Italy and were farmers, but also makers, working with everything from copper work to embroidery," Dimitrijevic said. "I never met my grandfather, but I was exposed to art and culture at an early age, and I fell in love with it."
Drawn to the allure of glasswork, Dimitrijevic first got started with the medium at the Michigan Hot Glass Workshop, founded by sculptor Albert Young and formerly located in downtown Pontiac. Dimitrijevic then earned a fine arts degree in glass and sculpture from the acclaimed art program at Alfred University, in New York. He also holds a master's degree in fine arts from Ohio State University.
"I think part of it was the way you are manipulating it with everything but your hand. It's a pretty captivating material when it's hot," he said about what drew him to work with glass. "To see this thing that is a static material move – there's really nothing that moves like hot glass, except honey."
Dimitrijevic later worked as a member of the hot shop team at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, and the William Morris team in Stanwood, Washington, and was an artist-in-residence at The Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. His work has been exhibited across the country and he has taught around the globe.
Dimitrijevic's more recent work focused on temporary, site-specific installations using light or its properties to define a space. The work often creates a framework around structures to literally cast the structures or landscape in a new light. To do so, Dimitrijevic often uses reclaimed and repurposed items, like discarded wood and fluorescent lighting.
"I started making things with found objects, and the work with lights started because the industry is switching to LED, and everyone is giving away fluorescent lights all over, so I started amassing like 1,500 fluorescent lights and needed to do something with them," he said. "I started photographing and distorting and displacing light that's in a natural setting and started thinking of light as something to draw with."
Dimitrijevic recently moved back to the metro Detroit area, drawn to the city by a new opportunity with Detroit restauranteurs and longtime friends Jacques and Christine Driscoll, best known for their success with restaurants Green Dot Stables and Johnny Noodle King. Together, the three plans to open Yellow Light Coffee & Donuts, in Detroit's Jefferson-Chalmer's area.
"Life has taken a twist," Dimitrijevic said. "I moved back to Detroit this past year with the intention of opening the restaurant. I didn't know I'd be opening a coffee roaster and donut shop, but I wanted to get back to Detroit, and I had to figure out what that meant."
While the majority of his artwork will remain on hold for a while, Dimitrijevic is already using his skills to decorate the interior of the restaurant.
"We found these old 1950s donut hoppers and blew them up in scale and made them into glass pendant lights," he said. "I'd like to do some smaller day projects, just to scratch that itch."
Photo: Laurie Tennent