Kerry Dikken: The Big Guy Around Town

Big: well-known and somewhat prominent.
Eminent: famous and admirable.
Huge: local sandblast artist Kerry Dikken.

From the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to the W Hotel in Downtown Minneapolis, it seems as though Kerry Dikken’s spectacular sandblasting talent is synonymous with all things big. Based out of his Blasted Arts studio on Nicollet Avenue in South Minneapolis, he specializes in, well, everything: glass, metals, champagne bottles, rocks, bricks, and even denim.

Working mainly with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Dikken imports an image into the program, and makes the design exactly what he wants it to be on the product. He sends the design through a vinyl cutter, which produces a durable, vinyl stencil. It is adhered to the product, leaving only the places that need to be sandblasted open to the weathering.

In his studio, Dikken has various sandblasting machines. To demonstrate the process, he grabs a beautiful, ornate glass, and inserts it in the side of the machine. He closes the door, and puts his hands through industrial gloves that enter inside the contraption. As he’s sandblasting around the vinyl, the glass slowly erodes. He pulls the glass out of the machine, removes the vinyl from the bottom of the glass, and—voila!—his signature beautifully is sandblasted into the glass.

Among the many jaw-dropping pieces displayed in Dikken’s studio, the most memorable are his glass sink; “We Did It” Obama champagne bottles; and table and stool set—all glass—where all the magical designing happens.

Before Dikken started to develop his career in sandblasting around 15 years ago, he worked at the co-op elevator in Sacred Heart, a small town west of the Twin Cities, where he unloaded semis and grain trucks. He describes his experience there as though it was his inspiration for sandblasting. The walls of the elevator are made of wood, and when the grain hit the walls in the same spot, day after day, the erosion turns into beautifully carved pieces of wood, according to Dikken—kind of like sandblasting.

To back up his statement, Dikken—sporting a sandblasted denim jacket—grabs a gnarled and twisted chunk of wood that his brother retrieved from the grain elevator. The grooves are almost polished, as the grain fell time after time on the same spot. The meager hunk of wood puts the process of the art form into perspective. Sandblasting is really a controlled and detailed form of erosion.

Strewn throughout Dikken’s studio are piles of bricks he is working on that eventually will be placed in Como Park in St. Paul and Loring Park in Minneapolis.

Much of Dikken’s work can be seen all over Minneapolis, including the Guthrie Theater and the sign for the sushi bar Seven. The 120-foot glass wall in the Minneapolis airport is a product of his creative genius, along with all the signs for the Water Park of America.

Again, Dikken and big are synonymous.

Dikken’s long-running project, 128 Groveland, is a cutting-edge idea he has been working on for almost four years. He has teamed up with architect Toby Rapson, son of world-renowned architect Ralph Rapson. The project is a proposed four-unit condo complete with two stories of sandblasted glass walls, a penthouse, glass sinks, and a spectacular view of the city. The two-story front of the condo will appear to have massive curtains covering the glass, but really it will be Dikken’s crafty sandblasting that gives the illusion of drapery. The top floor is the quintessential penthouse, consisting of a balcony the size of the spacious living room and dining room combined, glass walls from ceiling to floor, and an elevator straight to the top.

What Dikken considers his cup of tea is more like a massive vat that someone would sink into. It takes a steady hand and a lot of practice to get results like his beautiful craftsmanship.

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