From welder to artist, the story of Ronald A. Westerhuis.

About welding, art and staying true to yourself

From Welder to Artist: The Story of Ronald A. Westerhuis

Ronald A. Westerhuis is the artist behind the artwork “Self Reflection“, the most recent addition to the art collection of The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Have you seen this remarkable piece in the Oval on the first floor?

In a phone interview on April 5th of this year, Westerhuis discusses his work and fascinating career switch from welder to sculptor. Conducted by Ocke Siertsema, a student assistant at The Lighthouse and a second-year student studying Public Administration/Management at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

Ronald A. Westerhuis is no ordinary artist; his journey into the world of sculpture begins far removed from the art scene. “I worked at sea and came into contact with stainless steel,” Westerhuis recounted. “It was difficult to work with, but I found it to be an incredibly interesting material.”

Between his weeks at sea, Westerhuis begins experimenting in his spare time. “I knew nothing about art; I just started making things,” he said. His passion for steel and creating unique forms evolves into an art career, eventually leading him to leave his job at sea and fully pursue art.

Although many see Westerhuis as an artist, he does not consider himself a stereotypical representative of his field. “I never really felt like an artist. I have no idea how that’s supposed to feel,” he openly shared. His artistic style, characterized by monumental forms and reflective themes, focuses on self-reflection and the human self-image. This is clearly evident in his recent work, titled “Self Reflection.”

“But when you look at the scale, you actually see who is the most important in that universe.”

In the interview, Westerhuis shares his perspective on art and the importance of self-worth. “Nothing is more important than yourself,” he emphasized. This realization is reflected in his work, challenging people to look at themselves through monumental mirrors and scales. The work ‘Self Reflection’ also includes mirrors. Westerhuis explains that when viewed from a distance, each mirror reflects an individual at the university, but up close, you only see yourself. 

In addition to his artistic practice, Westerhuis is actively involved in mentoring young men who may fall outside the education system. He allows them to shadow the team for a few days to see if it fits. Quality is important, but team spirit is the most important thing, says Westerhuis. “And if it seems good after three days, they just get a year contract. We have no hierarchy in the workshop.”

Westerhuis also embraces new challenges, including collaborations with international artists and cultural projects that bridge cultures. He is particularly fond of Chinese culture and plans to organize a large exhibition with Chinese artists at the end of the year. “I want to build a kind of bridge between China and the Netherlands.”

His story from welder to artist is not just a journey of profession but an inspiration to stay true to oneself in an ever-changing world and follow one’s own passion.

In a time of increasing external influences, such as social media and performance pressure, Westerhuis emphasizes the importance of self-worth. He encourages students to remain authentic and discover their own identity. “Stay true to yourself.”