A Master Sandblaster

Stevens Square artist stands out in the art scene with sandblasted creations

STEVENS SQUARE – Kerry Dikken thinks of his craft as “controlled erosion.”

To remind himself of just what that means, Dikken keeps a piece of well-worn wood in his Stevens Square studio.

The foot-long block was scavenged from a grain elevator in Sacred Heart, his rural hometown two hours west of Minneapolis. Scoured for years or even decades by falling corn, the wood block eroded over time into a smooth, undulating shape, almost like a piece of driftwood.

“I always thought that was so cool,” said Dikken, who worked in the elevator as a youth.

At Blasted Art, 1907 Nicollet Ave. S., Dikken’s sandblasting and design studio, that same process of erosion is sped-up by a high-pressure stream of aluminum oxide.

Dikken picked up sandblasting between careers as a technical illustrator and, later, in the design industry. Opening Blasted Art about 10 years ago was a way to combine all of his skills, he said.

Since then, Dikken has turned his sandblaster on glass, metal, stone, and even leather and denim. His output ranges from decorative works for commercial and residential projects to sandblasted clothing.

The creative sandblasting community is fairly small, so Dikken is often on his own when developing new techniques.

“I’ll see tile samples and think, ‘I should blast that and see what happens,’” he said.

Carving a niche

Of all the materials he works with, glass is Dikken’s favorite.

“It has such depth,” he said.

Examples of his glasswork are scattered around the Twin Cities.

Sandblasted art deco figures guard the doors of a Loring Park apartment building, and a glass wall lines one corridor of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. A sandblasted topographical map at Target Corporation’s Downtown headquarters is backlit with red lights, showing store locations.

Bob Upton, creative director at Parachute Design, said Dikken works on such a wide variety of projects because his skill set is so unique.

“It’s really unusual because you never really find an artist who is also a sandblaster and has a graphics background,” Upton said.

Parachute Design recently commissioned Dikken to mock-up bottle designs for a new flavor of Belvedere Vodka, one of the Minneapolis-based design firm’s international clients.

He said Dikken’s handcrafted prototypes allowed the client to actually hold and examine the bottles, rather than judging their appeal from computer-generated images.

Dikken carved out another niche for himself in the production of custom award and recognition pieces.

Betsy Pedersen of Meet Minneapolis, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, commissioned Dikken to build several awards in 2004, including a lifetime achievement award in layered glass and metal.

“It was a beautiful, beautiful award,” Pedersen said. “All the awards he did that year were phenomenal.”

From glass to denim

Glass crunched underfoot as Dikken gave a tour of his workshop. The shards were scraps from a recent project.

“I never really cut myself,” he insisted. “Every once in a while I get a sliver.”

The workshop was in one corner of a large garage, accessed through the back door of his Nicollet Avenue South storefront. Several small sandblasting cabinets were clustered together near a workbench. For larger projects, Dikken dons a “moon suit” and sandblasts inside a closet-sized booth.

On one shelf sat several bottles, including his prototypes for Belvedere Vodka. Above were various styles of martini and wine glasses, champagne flutes and shot glasses, many of them samples sent to Dikken by glass companies.

But hanging on a rack just a few feet away was a far different material: denim, in the form of jean jackets and a few pairs of jeans.

For a while, Dikken had enough success selling his custom sandblasted clothing that he opened a store at Southdale Center in Edina. One major customer was the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, which had Dikken sandblast its “Greatest Show on Earth” slogan into their outfits.

“I didn’t want to work mall hours,” Dikken said, explaining the store’s closing.

Still, the mall venture serves is a good example of the broad range of projects Dikken pursues.

Those project don’t just vary by material – from denim to cement to glass – but also by function, from utilitarian to extravagant. In Dikken’s studio, a restroom sign sits beside a New York Fashion Week invitation commissioned by fashion designer Salvatore Ferragamo, both in sandblasted glass.

One of Dikken’s upcoming projects promises to be his most ambitious ever. He plans to tear down his Groveland Avenue house and rebuild it as four condominiums.

“One of my motivating factors to do it is to do a lot of my glasswork,” he said.

Dikken planned banisters in glass and doors that set his glasswork in wood. He even imagined glass sinks in the bathrooms.

Prospective buyers can get a sense of the project from the floor plans, which Dikken sandblasted into several glass blocks. He stacked them in the shape of the four-plex.

“I want the penthouse” – he said, lifting a glass block of the top of his model – “but I won’t be able to afford it.”


Reach Dylan Thomas at [email protected] or 436-4391.