Sculptor Andries Dirks (Klipkind), who needs up to 16 hours of uninterrupted firing time in the kiln, uses his art to express his frustration at the state of the state-owned energy company.
With the annual Riebeek Valley Solo Studios just around the corner (18-20 August), studio artists like Klipkind (Andries Dirks) are working tirelessly on their artworks for this annual event on the art calendar.
Pressure and challenges are also a reality, and with loadshedding, a sculptor who needs to fire his clay pieces feels it deeply, especially when they need to be fired twice for 16 hours straight.
Dirks, a native of the valley, knows what it’s like to suffer damage when the kiln unexpectedly loses electricity. Then your work bursts irreparably.
In response to this and the controversial interview by André de Ruyter, Klipkind created a special work, “Unlocking the Truth”. “A Khoi bust without arms,” he explains, “because many of our Khoi people also watched the interview. And it’s on our minds too. But we’re helpless. We can’t do anything.”
Also depicted in the work are “trucks with coal, the billions that disappear monthly, a pole with copper wire, a hand with long fingers, and the cup in which they tried to poison De Ruyter. With the chain, I just want to say they wanted to keep him quiet.”
Dirks grew up as a lonely child on a farm near the Bergriver, raised by his grandparents, and he built life-sized “friends” out of clay to play with.
“The sadness always came when it rained. Then my friends collapsed. But then there was always a chance to make new friends.”
With each sculpture, he became more skilled.
When Dirks later attended school in Gouda, his classmates teased him and called him Klipkind because he looked more like a “Bushman” than the other children. That made him feel insecure, and once again, he turned to working with clay. Although that nickname was negative for him, he now uses it as an artist.
He also kept a hare near his play area, but he could never catch the hare. So he made his first clay hare. And that was the inspiration for the many clay hares for which he has become known.
Some of them have already found their place overseas - in Paris, Wales, and elsewhere.
“I don’t work with molds. I want each hare to be different. Unique.” In his clay, Klipkind also mixes a “paper pulp that strengthens the final product.”
When it became clear that Eskom’s electricity availability for the kiln in which he bakes his works is unreliable, Dirks built a clay kiln with inspection holes to regulate the very high temperature (between 1 000 and 1 200 ºC). Unfortunately, the recent heavy rains severely damaged this clay kiln.
Although he had been creating small clay works with the “wild clay” that he dug up himself and loved working with, he only learned later that it needed to be fired.
His path took twists and turns - including through prisons - and later intersected with ceramic artists in the Riebeek Valley.
He has been involved in the first Solo Studios in 2016 as an artist. These days, Klipkind’s studio, which he operates with the help of a benefactor, is located on Short Street in Riebeek-Kasteel and he offers classes from this space.
He has also taken a group of young children under his wing as part of a community project to create clay works for display during this year’s Solo Studios at Gallery 7 on Plein.
The father of four explained that he prefers to create sculptures of people. Most of them resemble someone he remembers, but he said he usually only notice this after he’s done. He also sculpts hares quite often, because they are the popular works that put food on the table.
“And one day,” says Dirks, he would “love to start casting and selling his works in bronze. But it’s very expensive.” For this years’ Solo Studio event he invited new local resident Arno Morland as a collaborator to exhibit bronze sculptures in his studio space.
Tickets and more information about Solo Studios 2023 are available at www.solostudios.co.za.