Fountain, Riad Fez, Fès, Morocco, ©travelmagnolia2016

Morocco | Fez’s Amazing Artisans Pt 1

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.

Fountain, Riad Fez, Fès, Morocco, ©travelmagnolia2016
Zellige design fountain and wall decor  at Riad Fes

Zellige

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.

Chiselers_MosaicTiles_Ceramics

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.

MosaicTiles_Ceramics
Rough and Final Versions

A master craftsman then assembles the design with the pieces upside down! This man is working on a fountain.

PlacingMosaics2_ArtNaji_Fez

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.

Palais Glaoui, Fès, Morocco, Zellige ©travelmagnolia2016
Incredible Zellige work on the floors and walls at the Palais Glaoui in Fès

So many beautiful mosaics everywhere we went – and they have lasted for centuries!

Ceramics

Art Naji, Fès, Morocco ©travelmagnolia2016

Also at Art Naji,  potters and painters create beautiful ceramic vases, dishes and tagines.

Potter_ArtNaji_Fez

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:

 

maâlem, art naji, fez, morocco, ©travelmagnolia2016

Once the piece has been dried, a master craftsman or maâlem meticulously draws the design on the piece.

Art Naji, Ceramics, Fès, Morocco, ©travelmagnolia2016

Then, color is applied in an equally careful manner.

Kilns, Art Naji, Fez, Morocco ©travelmagnolia2016
Our Hostess Bushra and Two of the Kilns at Art Naji

The pieces are then fired in one of four kilns fueled with olive pits and sawdust!

ArtNaji_Ceramics_Fez, Morocco ©travelmagnolia2016

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.

 

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