Handcrafted zellige tile has several distinctive qualities, but the most defining characteristic is its beautifully inconsistent presentation. An art form that spans centuries, the method of making Moroccan zellige has hardly changed throughout history. Master craftsmen, known as maalems, train generations of apprentices in the craft of zellige. Molded from raw clay and hand filtered for impurities, each zellige tile is one of a kind. Authentic zellige tiles should look different from one another, including their perfect imperfections.
Captivating Colors When you receive your brand-new, shiny zellige, the first thing you’ll notice is their rich, vibrant color. The second thing you’ll notice is the stunning variation from tile to tile. Because they are individually handmade, each tile picks up a slightly different hue. Every genuine terra-cotta tile is unique in its range of shades. There can even be visible variation within a single tile. When we say zellige is dynamic, we mean dynamic!
All Shapes and Sizes Zellige tiles are cut and chiseled by hand. What does that mean for their final form? It means that edges aren’t expected to look smooth and level. Not only do the tiles vary slightly in size, but they also vary in depth. A zellige-covered floor will never lie completely flat, and that’s what makes it so striking! Your guests will immediately recognize the ancient technique of adorning your home with handmade works of art. If you want to stray away from mass-manufactured, cookie cutter materials, it doesn’t get more organic than zellige.
The Crazing Craze Is there a hairline crack in your brand new zellige? Don’t throw it out! If you like the look of subtle flaws, you can use a penetrating sealer to prevent staining. If you’d rather stick to zellige with a solid surface, you can set the cracked tiles aside. That’s why we always recommend ordering sufficient overage. In our humble opinion? We think the minor fractures give the tiles a sense of character. You could even say…we’re crazy about crazing! (We just can’t help ourselves with the tile puns.)
Chip, Chip, Hooray! Another unique element of Moroccan zellige is their tendency for chipped edges. There will be pits and chips throughout the tiles, which gives them a distinctly textured appearance. Zellige tiles should not be entirely smooth to the touch, and there will be around 30% of tiles that contain these surface-level blemishes. Love it or leave it, they’re what make zellige different from any other material on the market.
Blend In and Stand Out When you lay your zellige, you want to mix and match tiles from different boxes. This will assure a perfect blend of different shades and textures. Zellige tiles have been historically used for decorative mosaics, so you want to try to replicate that Moroccan magic in your own home. Instruct your installer to blend tiles from each box so that you maintain an even array of different surface and color variations.
Questions and Queries The wonderful world of zellige can conjure up a few questions, which is why we’re here to help. If you’re curious about the details regarding pits, cracks, and crazing, drop us a line! Our team is passionate about these beautiful Moroccan marvels, and we love to talk tile. Tell us about your dream installation, and we will help bring it to life. Shoot us an email and we’ll talk you through the nitty-gritty of handcrafted zellige.