Ruth Ruyffelaere makes books. Knowing all the steps involved in art book publishing, she assists some of the major art institutions in Brussels on their new publications. Together with her father, Ruth runs the publishing house Ludion. And together with her partner and their two boys, she is discovering their new neighbourhood in Anderlecht.

You are originally from Gent, what made you move to Brussels?

Yes, I grew up in Gent and lived there until I finished high-school and then decided I wanted to move to Spain to continue my studies further. In Barcelona you can do a Master’s Degree in Publishing and that spoke to me. After completing my degree, I worked five years in a publishing house, specialised in children’s books. I ended up staying ten years in Barcelona before I moved back to Belgium. As I was returning to my home country together with my Spanish boyfriend, Jose, we wanted to move to a place which was new to both of us and which had the feeling of a metropole, like in Barcelona. Gent was not an option, too small and too known to me. I felt like discovering something new and Brussels was indeed totally new to me. We made the right choice. We’re both very happy to live here, still after ten years.

Knowing both cities so well, how would you describe the difference between Gent and Brussels?

Well, I might fall into the trap of the grand clichés, but I would say that Brussels feels more exciting because it’s more dynamic. But it’s also a tougher city than Gent. More polluted and noisy and with the late drug-related shootings around town, the streets don’t feel as safe as they used to somehow. Many people have a sort of love-hate relationship with Brussels for these reasons, because at the same time it’s a city that offers adventures around every corner. And I love that I can still discover new places. I sometimes wonder if Brussels is the right place to bring up my children, but I’m hoping that raising them here will make them less judgmental and more open to the world.

Two years ago, you moved from the municipality of Forest to the municipality of Anderlecht, how come and how have you and your family integrated in your new area?

We decided to look for a house as we were expecting our second child and as I wanted to stay close to Saint-Gilles and the city centre, where I work, Anderlecht seemed like a good location, with house prices more approachable than in Saint-Gilles and Forest. A few of my friends were already living in Anderlecht at the time so I kind of knew what to expect. Yet, I have to say that the change was more difficult in the beginning than what I had thought. Where you live is like an epicentre of what you do, where you go, it becomes your little village. And changing epicentre, even though just a few kilometres away, felt like a big move. Now, after two years, I feel much better about it. The children’s school is great and I’ve found my local places to buy groceries and drink a coffee. Anderlecht is very big and the part of it close to the city centre, Cureghem, is busy and a bit rough but the rest is mostly green and quiet. It feels less dense than Saint-Gilles and Forest. We are close to the Etangs Neerpede and on the other side of those ponds it’s Pajottenland, the Flemish countryside with large fields and meadows. I’m really grateful for having discovered this part of Brussels. Many good things are happening here, for example the reopening of the old brasserie Chapeau Blanc. 16 neighbours decided to form an association and take over a restaurant which used to be a local institution but which had been left empty for years. They renovated the place and now offer homely Belgian dishes at reasonable prices. Such a great initiative.

You worked in the publishing industry in Spain and continued this path when you moved back to Belgium?

I have always had a close connection to the publishing industry as my father founded the independent art book publishing house Ludion in Gent in the nineties. When I moved to Brussels, we decided to move the head office from Gent to Brussels and I have been managing it together with my father since. At Ludion, we work with art institutions in Belgium and abroad on new book releases. We also work directly with artists on monographies and catalogues. I simply love making art books. At the moment, I work both for Ludion and on other projects on the side. Recently, I started collaborating with Fondation A, located in Forest. Fondation A specialises in photography and presents the incredible photography collection of Astrid Ullens de Schooten Whettnall. We are about to publish a great book with them. Creating and publishing art books is complex, you need to know all the different stages of process: What is a good text? What is a good image? How do you design a book? How do you print a book? And so on. Yet, I find it super exhilarating as a job. Today, it’s getting more and more difficult for small publications, one of the great art book stores in Antwerp just closed, so we have to be alert and able to adapt, perhaps by publishing and promoting on several platforms at the same time. This is what I am looking into with my new set-up working both for Ludion and as a freelancer.

Ruth is one of the 73 locals who has generously contributed to our city guide 'Brussels by locals' by sharing a favourite spots in town.

Pictures by Stephanie De Smet
1. Eglise Saint-Guidon
2. Ruth’s portrait has been taken at the Erasmus house and Béguinage
3. Cimetière du Dieweg