Where are you based?
Ateliers Zelij was born and is still based in Toulouse. South of France, this town is famously known for its unique architecture made of terracotta bricks. Toulouse is a rich mix of South European and Mediterranean cultures.
What is the history behind your studio?
We met in 2000 at Toulouse during industrial design training. At this time, Samir was creating furniture in his workshop in Morocco and I (Delphine) came from Boffi studio, an Italian company that produces contemporary kitchens.
Our training in industrial design was a chance to take a break from our working life. During this time we discovered we shared a passion for surfaces and Moroccan cultural. We quickly decided to invest in the fusion of contemporary design and traditional craftsmanship.
What is the concept behind your creations?
We love to explore different techniques. Our approach is to combine traditional expertise with contemporary design. We are fascinated with the fusion of these two concepts.
With his strong understanding of sculpture, Samir, gives Zellige a new meaning. He plays with forms, contrasts & shades and thus has made these tiles suitable to the modern world without compromising the manufacturing process of zellige and respecting artisanal culture.
Tell us a bit about your ethical design approach..
Our company is founded on the values of open communication and respect of our partners, mainly based in Morocco. Our vision is an open and united world in which the economy is a result of social and environmental progress. We are respectful towards our customers.
Our commitment to our values is reflected in:
- The guarantees of the Labor Code clauses in the country of production and the minimum age for work.
- The practice of management that respects the rights of all employees and gives them a safe and healthy workplace. - A less stressful impact on the environment at all manufacturing steps. -The establishment of a thoughtful logistics policy for the delivery of our products.
Favourite Design Trend?
The Bauhaus movement!
A word that best describes your work:
'Oser l'air de rien'/expertise.
Most memorable moment in your career?
Milan Design Week 2016 where Samir's creations were selected at Ventura Project. It's an amazing experience for a designer to have their work acknowledged by the public.
Top three influences behind your creations?
Nature, Geometry, Art
Words to live by?
"Cultiver sa singularité inventer, ne jamais copier créer ses propres codes changer les règles du jeu surprendre en restant soi-même oser, l’air de rien."
"Cultivate your singularity; invent; never copy; create your own codes, change the rules of the game, surprise but remain yourself. Dare; casually."
What is the most important part of designing zellige?
Firstly to understand the heritage and the process in which this tile is created. Secondly to constantly keep up with design trends, culture & art.
What is your production process?
Zellige is a hand-made mosaic combining accurately cut pieces from monochromatic enamelled tiles. The use of Zellige is popular in walls, fountains, floors and columns in Morocco. We do not change the traditional production process that answers to centuries-old rules:
- Clay extraction: special clay from Fez is mixed with water, then, kneaded with both hands and feet, until the clay becomes flexible and homogeneous. Cut into 11cm squares with a thickness of 12 mm, those tiles are sun-dried and then baked in a special klin (oven).
- Glazing: The tiles are enamelled and then baked for a second time, at 800°C, in a traditional wooden klin. This glazing confirmed our distinctive manufacturing process. Our color shades result in the differences in heat, including variations within the same color group.
- Tatooing & Cutting: Once the tiles are removed from the oven, they are separated according to color. Then a Rasham (graphist) draws the shapes to be cut directly on the tile. The patterns are tessellated to ensure maximum efficiency. Then the tiles are sent to a Naqqash (cutter) who uses a wide hammer carefully sharpened at each end, to cut the tiles. At the end a Khallas (finisher) cuts the edges to make sure they meet the requirements for each project.
- Installation: Once the Zellige pieces are collected, a Maallem (master craftsman) draws the design layout on the floor: this shows the exact place for each piece of Zellige. Each piece is placed face down and any additional adjustment is made to ensure a snug fit. In addition to geometric patterns, Zellige can also be used to make floral designs or calligraphy.
- Pre-assembled patterns: Our panels come pre-assembled & pre-grouted in +/_ 300 x 300 mm due to a development managed by Sika®, leader in construction solutions.