Fez is a city of contradictory impressions: at once revealing the artistry that has characterized since its founding in the late 9th century, while also hiding much of its beauty behind the high walls and imposing doors. What is absolutely clear is that generations of talented artisans have handed down their skills and fortunately these are still being practiced today. This post focuses on the art of Zellige (geometric tile work for which Fez is renowned) and ceramics.
To learn more about the stunning mosaics and ceramics we had seen through Fès, we spent a morning at Art Naji with Bushra, a member of the family that founded and has run the company for almost a century.
In the Zellige process, men work in pairs to create shapes from terra cotta tiles that have been painted and fired in bright colors. One chisels the rough shape and the other then smooths the edges so it can fit into the jigsaw puzzle pattern.
A master craftsman then assembles the design with the pieces upside down! This man is working on a fountain.
To better appreciate the incredible craftsmanship, click on the link below for a short video showing artisans from Fez ( from Art Naji), at work at the Metropolitan Museum.
So many beautiful mosaics everywhere we went – and they have lasted for centuries!
Also at Art Naji, potters and painters create beautiful ceramic vases, dishes and tagines.
The speed and accuracy is astonishing: it takes under a minute to make a cup such as the one shown above and the wheel is powered the old fashioned way – by foot – as you can see in this video:
Once the piece has been dried, a master craftsman or maâlem meticulously draws the design on the piece.
Then, color is applied in an equally careful manner.
The pieces are then fired in one of four kilns fueled with olive pits and sawdust!
Just a small sample of the finished products. Custom orders can be made for complete sets of dinnerware for twelve, or a full set of tagines or…the possibilities are limitless and Art Naji ships worldwide. I barely managed to restrain myself.