Moroccan Tile Craft and History

Zellige is the name give to the colorful style of enamel-covered terra cotta tile that originated in northern Africa and migrated to Spain in the 8th century. The art form arose from the need of Islamic artists to create spatial decorations that avoided depictions of living things, consistent with religious teachings. Today Moroccan or Moorish tile usually plays an accent role in Western design, where it brings romance and visual interest to monotone interiors.

“Zellige making is considered an art in itself. The art is transmitted from generation to generation by maâlems (master craftsmen). A long training starts at childhood in order to master exceptional skills.

Assiduous attention to detail is very important in the process of creating zellige works. The small shaped (cut according to a precise radius gauge), painted and enamel covered pieces are then assembled together in a geometrical structure as in puzzle to form the completed single mosaic. The process has not varied for a millennium, though conception and design has started using new technologies such as data processing.” From Wikipedia.

Note the incredible manual skill required to shape the small enamel tiles in the video below.