Both an artform and a protective surface, Zellij occupies a unique place both in medieval history and in modern interior design. With Moorish roots in the North of Africa, the art of Zellij has been passed from generation to generation by master craftsmen (known as maâlems). The word 'zillij' has origins in the word 'zalaja' meaning 'to slide', referencing the smooth glazed surface.
As traditional winemaking sees grapes crushed underfoot, zellij begins with the mixing of water and Miocene clay by foot, an abundant grey clay from Fez (where the Earp Bros Zellij range is crafted). The wet clay is formed into small clay slabs within wooden moulds, and left to dry. The dry climate and constant Moroccan sunlight makes it the perfect place for such a process.
Cut into the final tile shape, the tile face is dipped in the glaze mixture before being dried further to reduce the moisture content prior to firing.
Stacked carefully in an interlocking pattern to spread the heat more evenly throughout the tile mass, the traditional 'beehive' kiln is ignited and fired at relatively low temperatures, resulting in a soft biscuit and beautiful glazed surface.
Handmade products are inherently varied in colour, shape, texture and thickness, and it is these inconsistencies from which zellij has become such an iconic interior covering. Bumps, bubbles and rough edges all stimulate the senses and highlight the individuality of each tile.
To allow the product to take focus and grout joints to be less visible, we recommend either matching the grout to the tile colour as closely as possible (alternatively a light grey grout colour will be suitable with most colours).