I decided to take a break in my professional life and had this crazy idea. During the summer of 2019, I randomly met a sculptor and I was literally absorbed by the beauty of this ancestral technique and the symbolism behind it. Indeed, working on terracotta was, to me, very poetic as I felt it could be interpreted by each individual differently. I fell in love with this art and realized that, with my creativity and vision, I could modernize the traditional zellige and its craft.
Exploring Beauty with Zineb Bennani, creator of ZELART
We caught up with Moroccan-born founder and creative guru Zineb Bennani, of Zelart, to find out what inspired her to modernize traditional Moroccan tiles for new-gen art lovers. Although she had to pause operations during lockdown, Zineb viewed her designs as a way of fostering much-needed communication at a time when, globally, we were forced to stay apart. Read on below to find out more about her creative process, and what comes next for the brand.
How did the idea for ZELART come about?
Can you walk us through your creative process?
The small zellige tiles are kneaded, molded, cooked then enameled with a 100 percent artisanal technique in the imperial city of Fez. Fez has actually been the capital of this [type of] craftsmanship for centuries.
After that, [the tiles] are shipped to my workshop in Tangiers and we work on the design by carving the tile and turning it into modern pieces of art that measure 12x12cm and are designed to be hung on the wall. Their small size actually allows our customers to be creative as well in terms of pairing designs and creating their own patterns.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My sources of inspiration are very diverse. I am generally inspired by what is around me. It can be a situation, an object, or a cause that means something to me. I love my country and I am trying to showcase it through a Zelart collection starring Moroccan cities. Marrakech, Casa, Tangier all have a place in Zelart. I am also very moved by female causes, and our bravery as women. Sometimes, I also get inspired by art pieces from famous or emerging artists, and try to do humble interpretations of their work.
How has your brand been impacted by COVID-19?
As is the case with many young brands, we had to stop our activity during the months [impacted by Covid], which was sudden and unexpected. Then we realized people wanted to communicate and show love to their family and friends that they could not see anymore so we started making Zelart pieces with emotional messages to be sent anywhere in the world. We were not selling in shops anymore, but exclusively online.
COURTESY OF BRAND
"I was literally absorbed by the beauty of this ancestral technique and the symbolism behind it..."
COURTESY OF BRAND
COURTESY OF BRAND
Can you discuss the importance of craftsmanship in your community?
It is at the heart of what we do. We create new possibilities for our beautiful zellige craftsmanship. Our products are 100 percent handmade in Morocco. Everything is done with love and passion, from the small metallic boxes cut and folded manually to the zellige. For now, I am focused on my baby Zelart but I hope to explore other inspiring sectors such as ceramics which I find very influential.
What is next for the brand?
We would love to have a bigger workshop and develop our activities internationally. We believe many people, who love beautiful and different things, will appreciate our babies. It is a different way to advertise Morocco and its beautiful craftsmanship. I would also love to collaborate with artists and brands who have the same noble and ethical values.
Where is your favourite place in Morocco and why?
Choosing only one place in Morocco is frustrating...but I’ll try. My favorite place is not very 'trendy,’ it is the Moulay Bousselham Bay where I go birdwatching with my family. We are passionate about birds and it is the perfect place to discover and observe rare species and even local flamingos. It is incredibly beautiful.
"Everything is done with love and passion, from the small metallic boxes cut and folded manually to the zellige..."
"Beware of the sun: it is both your best friend and your enemy..."
What is your skin care philosophy?
My routine is quite simple. I don't have much time to pamper myself for hours so I try to be efficient. In the morning, I cleanse with water then apply a day cream, some powder, et voila! In the evening, light makeup removal as I don't apply much, then a night cream. To sum up: nothing extravagant, but effective.
What is the best Beauty advice you have ever received?
Beware of the sun. It is both your best friend and your enemy.
For more from the brand, follow @zelart on instagram. Connect with us @whind to discover more from our creator series.