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10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT MOROCCAN “ZELLIGE”

“PRINCE OF TILES” – III

The beautiful handmade tiles of Morocco, creates magic with their essense of rusticity and uniqueness in every single piece. These are handmade tiles which shares long history of Moorish and Islamic architecture. Zellige are well discussed in our previous two posts- ZELLIGE- ANCIENT TILES FROM MOROCCO and MOROCCAN ZELLIGE- PRODUCTION AND PATTERNS.

Zellige are Moroccan tiles, crafted one by one from non-refined natural clay extracted in the region of Fez (Morocco). The essence of Zellige lies in its irregularity of surface appearance, tone, flatness, shine, depth and colour. Every Zellige is different.

Here we will limit our discussion to the 10 facts you must know before installing Zellige in your house.

1. ZELLIGE IS AN ART

It is an ancient art and a part of Moroccan heritage. The art of Zellige making is a laborious task carried on by Maallems, master craftsmen. The skill is passed from generation to generation where they keep alive this architectural heritage.

The art find its roots in Moorish architecture based on Islamic religious beliefs thus using geometric patterns, Kufic scripts and no figurative motifs. Zellige is a perfect amalgamation of art and mathematics. Geometric patterns like stars, squares, rectangles, lines, circles, ellipses, triangles, rectangles, and polygons are common Zellige designs. 

2. EVERY PIECE IS DISTINCTIVE

No two Zellige tiles are alike. They are all different because they’re totally HANDMADE – hand molded, hand chiseled, and hand glazed and manually assembled into a mosaic. Each piece is unique. This makes Zellige tiles so special.

3. ZELLIGE IS NOT A SUBWAY TILE

Zellige and subway tile may look same to an amateture but they are worlds apart. A subway tile is a new invention which are made of ceramic and commonly used because of durability, timelessness, easy-to-clean, stain-resistant, and bacteria-resistant properties.

But Zellige is ancient. Its history date back to 10th century. They are 100 % handmade, hand chiseled and created by assembling individual shape/pattern into a mosaic.

4. VARIATION IN APPEARANCE

If you’re opting for zellige tiles as your backsplash or wall than there is a possibility that a single batch of Zellige tiles offer little different hues of colors and textures. This is obvious because they are all handmade.

Zellige tiles are also good in sparkle and shine which they carry for decades but they do not offer a choice to matte finish lovers.

5. MAKE ZELLIGE LOOK PERFECT

The best way to Zellige look perfect without much effort is to open several boxes and randomly mix different Zellige tiles together. This will create a set of multiple tones and textures that will reflect all the Zellige colour shades.

If you like to keep it BARE and Raw, you can opt out for natural, unglazed zellige. Just be sure to wet the tiles before installing to prevent a “veil” of cement forming on the tiles, and use a grout with few additives.

6. ZELLIGE CAN BE HARD TO CLEAN

The handmade nature of zellige tiles makes them imperfect, uneven shapes carrying little flaws. It is the beauty of Zellige but, in terms of cleaning, it can be challenging. Like the Zellige on a wall, may appear more ripped than flat, corners and edges may protrude. This rawness is the real essence of Zellige- It cannot be treated.

However modern glazed Zellige tiles are of easy maintenance, cleaned like any other glazed clay tile but Metallic Zellige range requires special measures for installation and maintenance.

7. OUTDOOR INSTALLATION

Zellige tiles, like any other enamelled ceramics, are not affected by sun or UV exposure. They are regularly used in exterior areas with a mild climate (not recommended in frost).

Quality of the subsurface and standard of installation (using suitable grout and adhesive for outdoor use) will affect the tile deal with thermal shocks. Like other enamelled ceramics, covering a surface with Zellige tiles does not guarantee waterproofing.

8. GROUT WILL BE INVISIBLE

Zellige tiles, when installed carefully by an expert leaves no grout at all. These tiles must be installed by hands, leaving no joint (edge to edge) without using tile spacers. Tile placement with the adhesive depth and grout space should be in harmony. Complex designs needs more adjusting.

After the adhesive is dry and the Zellige tiles are well fixed, flexible grout is spreadover the surface, with a rubber spatula, making sure that the spaces between the tiles are completely filled. Excess grout cement is wiped off with a damp cloth leaving behind a finished grout-less Zellige.

9. ZELLIGE IS FOR EVERYWHERE

Zellige is a universal tile. You can enhance your home aesthetics by adding them to your kitchen backsplash, worktops, bathrooms, all over the walls, floors, skirtings, stairways, swimming pools and even as decoratives.

Nature of installation will differ according to the area but undoubtedly, the finished portion will become matchless.

10. NO FLAWS, NO “ZELLIGE”

An authentic zellige will carry little imperfections. If it’s perfect, it’s everything but not Zellige. Little flaws, color variations, texture variation is the beauty of rue Zellige. They are handmade and that should be cherished. There is beauty in Rawness, that must be celebrated.

Keeping an ancient art alive is our responsibility. We must not let this beautiful art die.

IMAGE SOURCE: FLICKR

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