Zellige is a type of mosaic tile work from Morocco. This traditional art requires meticulous craftsmanship to execute flawlessly, it is used as an architectural feature or artistic element within a water feature, on walls, floors, or ceilings. The tiles are made by hand. The process requires attention to detail and is a craftsmanship passed down through the generations of family owned businesses. The word "zellige" comes from Arabic الزليج ( al zulaycha ) that means 'little polished stone'.
The art of zellige was introduced to Europe during the 13th century in the Al Andalus area, what is today known as Spain & Portugal but originated well before that in the Islamic world. The patterns symbolize the infinite nature of God (Allah). Artisans were prohibited from depicting living beings in artwork and used instead, geometric shapes and patterns as a form of expression. Fes and Meknes in Morocco currently remain a centre of this art form.
The tiles are made from clay found near Fes and are prepared as 11cm square tiles, approximately 6-12mm thick which are baked in a Kiln. Glazed colour is then applied, and the tiles are baked again. After the square coloured tiles are complete an artisan will the sketch the required geometric shapes on the larger tiles and cut them down by hand. The individual shaped tiles (called furmah) are then pieced together into the larger geomtric patterns.
The tiles can be installed two ways. The first method requires the individual tiles to be laid out in geometric shapes and patterns on the floor, then plaster is applied to the back of the tiles to create large panels which can then be applied to walls, floors, ceilings etc. The second method requires direct application on the wall or other surface over a layer of plaster.
The colour options are endless as each colour is custom mixed according to the design requirements. Traditional colours are blue, red, green, gold, black and white.
In contemporary designs endless colours can be created, leaving the art open to modern interpretation.