Fes, Morocco – Ceramic Champs
The skill of Fes’s artisans has been admired by travellers over the centuries and indeed, much of the city’s history is tied up with the ingenuity of artists, sculptors, and ceramicists. In particular, with the dexterity of the potters and Zellige ceramic tile creators.
From multi-coloured ornate mosaics (of all shapes and sizes), that dominate so many interiors, to the inexhaustible supply of brightly decorated pottery designs, this most charming of crafts is as much part of the city’s history as its contemporary heartbeat.
Evidence of craftsmanship can be appreciated everywhere. An abundance of traditionally tiled medieval buildings can be seen with-in the medina, but they are also used in everyday life across souks, bazaars, mosques, and family homesteads.
I recommend delving a little deeper, with a visit to one of the old-school workshops and kiln sites. As these photos show, manual proficiency must be matched by zen like patience. As so many designs are built around an intricate and minute pattern.
Until I visited several workshops across Fes, I had not fully appreciated the creative journey from initial lump of clay or pre-chiselled stone fragment, to World Heritage Site interior design.
The city’s location, with valuable access to millennia-old raw materials, has been essential. Fassi Pottery – regarded as Morocco’s leading product – continues to rely upon the local grey-clay (as opposed to terracotta), which is hard-wearing and susceptible to being fired at volcanic temperatures, resulting in dishwasher and microwave proof stock. With their hand-painted finish, the unique Fassi blue designs remain hugely popular across the world.
Similarly, Le Bleu de Fès ceramics, covered with a white glaze and decorated in cobalt blue, are as popular today as they were in the 15th century, when no household of note would have been without some.