Initially limited to shades of white and brown, the art evolved over time thanks to the art and culture promoted over the centuries by the Moroccan royal dynasties. All colors have a symbolic meaning in Islamic culture, as do the geometric shapes used. Traditional zellige does not depict anything that represents living beings, and thus respects Islamic thought and teachings.
Creating zellige mosaics is an art that requires not only creativity, but also a high level of expertise in mathematics and geometry. It is a work of patience and precision, often requiring a great deal of time.
First, the pieces of clay must be taken and soaked in water for 24 hours in special basins called ezubas. The clay is then cleaned of impurities until it is smooth and ready for molding. Then it is kneaded and placed in rectangular molds and left to dry in the sun. Once dried, the rectangles are cut into 10 cm squares called ajura and baked in an oven at up to 1,500 degrees. At this point, the lagura is colored and then baked again to make a vase.
At this point, the processing of zellij is handed over to the artisans, who are called zlayji. To obtain a finished mosaic, the masters divide the work into three stages.
How does sledge work
First, the cutter takes the colored squares and makes many small pieces of different shapes. There are about 300 possible tile shapes, each with its own name and place in a particular decorative scheme.
Then we proceed to the composition of the chosen decoration. The traditional approach is to not lay the tiles directly on the wall or floor. Instead, they are placed on a special board, colored side down, to form the chosen and pre-designed pattern. All pieces must be assembled according to design with the utmost precision.
The last step is the actual installation. First of all it is necessary to check that the zellige panel is perfectly suited to the chosen surface, by checking the measurements and the alignment using special tools. Finally, the zellige is fixed to the surface using a water-cement-based primer.