The Delicate Art of Zellige

Zellige is popular form of art and has been in existence in Morocco for centuries. Zellige tiles were once used to decorate fountains and certain areas of a home as a symbol of money, royalty and power. The art has been passed down from generation to and was first recorded as far back as the tenth century. By the seventeenth century the tiles had become more colorful. The two main centers known for producing Zellige are Meknes and Fes.

Zellige is a terracotta tile that is decorated with mosaics. What makes these tiles so sought after is the fact that they are attractive, hardwearing, easy to clean and can be used almost anywhere in a house. Pools, ceilings, tables and walls, indoors and outdoors, can be decorated by using Zellige tiles. But how are these tiles created?

After a tile has been designed and its colors have been selected, a Fkhar (potter) will take on the responsibility of creating the perfect colors and glazes. He will also bake the materials for the tile in a traditional kiln, which is usually square in shape. The pattern is then hand chiseled into the tile, which is an intricate process as all the lines need to match up with the mosaic pieces. The tile with the pattern and the finely chiseled pieces of the mosaic are then handed over to a master artisan who works with his team to assemble the tile. Once the tile has geometric synchronization and is perfectly assembled, a secret mixture of materials is added to the back of the tile. The tiles are then left to dry for twenty four hours, after which they are cleaned and checked before being shipped off to their future owners.

The art of Zellige is a delicate process, with attention to detail a vital ingredient in the production of these tiles. Even though the industry has modernized somewhat by the storing of data, the process for assembling a Zellige tile has not changed. Having such skillful workmanship decorating a home is lifetime investment and aid to preserving this ancient art form.