Zellij, or mosaic tile, has a long history in morocco and, specifically, in the cities of fez and meknes. zellij first appeared in morocco during the 10th century. however, during the merinid dynasty in the 13th-15th centuries, the use of zellij became more widespread. because of the labor and cost associated with zellij, only the rich could afford to decorate their homes with it and it was a mark of wealth and sophistication. zellij was also widely used in mosques and palaces. in its most popular forms, zellij can be found in fountains, on ceilings, floors, and columns.
To begin making zellij, special clay from fez is mixed with water. then, it is kneaded, with both hands and feet, until the clay becomes flexible and homogeneous. it is cut into 11cm squares with a thickness of 12 mm. the tiles are sun-dried and then baked in a special oven.
Tiles are enameled and then baked for a second time, at 800°c, in a special oven fueled by olive pits. this is integral to and distinctive of our manufacturing process. in the oven, the tiles are placed according to color; white on the bottom, then blue, yellow, and green tiles on top. differences in heat result in the differences in color, including variations within the same color group.
Tatooing & cutting
Once the tiles are removed from the oven, they are separated according to color. then a rasham (drawer) draws the shapes being used directly on the tile. the patterns are tessellated to ensure maximum efficiency. then the tiles are sent to a naqqash (cutter) who uses a wide hammer, carefully sharpened at each end, to cut the tiles. finally, a khallas (finisher) cuts the edges to make sure they meet the requirements for the project.
once the zellij pieces are collected, a maallem (master craftsman) draws the design layout on the floor. this shows the exact place for each piece of zellij. each tile is placed face down and any additional adjustment is made to ensure a snug fit. in addition to geometric patterns, zellij can also be used to make floral designs or for calligraphy. from the production of the tiles, to the making of the zellij, everything is done in our workshops, and then installed at the project site.
Carved Plaster(GYPSUM)Unlike our other methods of decoration, carved plaster is done on-site. however, if time and cost are major factors, the plaster can be carved in our workshops in morocco and then sent, pre-assembled, to be installed.
to begin, a slow setting plaster is first applied in layers, several centimeters thick, directly on the surface that is to be decorated. then, a tarrah (plaster layer master) carefully smooths it. once the plaster is smooth, a khatat (drawing master) draws the symmetry and measuring points. sometimes, if the design is especially difficult, a maallem (master craftsman) will do it. finally, a nakash (carver) uses a stencil to produce the motif. before the plaster gets too hard, the nakash uses an iron tool to chisel the plaster at specific depths. when the plaster hardens, water is applied to make it easier to carve. the whole process requires patience, skill, and experience.
with this technique, any of the four main elements of moroccan-andalusian design can be used: calligraphy, muqarnas, geometric or floral designs. this method also provides a level of flexibility that allows for construction in constrained spaces or on uneven surfaces.
Wood WorkArabesque offers two types of woodwork, carved or painted premium moroccan cedar wood. our decorative wood can be used as ceilings, domes, friezes, doors, windows, and musharabiyyah (wooden partitions). because of the quality and beauty of moroccan cedar wood, it is very popular in moresque design.
like carved plaster, wood has the same techniques of carving (naksh) and painting (zwak). during the first phase, a motif is designed for the project. then, using a stencil, the design is applied directly to the wood. finally, a nakash (carver) carves the piece of wood using a hammer and a metal tool or it is painted. all four elements of moroccan-andalusian design can be used in the decoration of wood. the process of designing muqarnas is similar to the plaster one.
all phases of production occur in our workshops in fez, though the final installation occurs at the job site. for smaller projects, a general contractor may assemble and install our products with his own team. for bigger projects, however, we provide our own craftsmen to complete the installation.