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A little history - Fes - Moroccan ceramics

Fez remains the city that made the greatness of Moroccan ceramics. Of very old origin, the ceramics of Fez are recognizable by their decoration predominantly cobalt blue, the color of the city, and the patterns that combine green and yellow gold. True artists, the master potters of Fez have for centuries developed a subtle sense of enameled ornamentation. Even today, the workshops of the imperial city remain unmatched for the elegance and finesse of their production. Fez remains the undisputed capital of earthenware, blue or polychrome, on a white background. The master potters of the imperial city compete in talent to produce finely worked and decorated ceramic pieces.

Enamelled and glazed ceramics were born in Fez. In 814, Idriss II welcomed thousands of immigrants from Cordoba to his new capital. Among these men are experienced craftsmen who brought with them techniques then unknown to Morocco. Pottery is no longer just utilitarian, the pieces become works of art and make the city famous throughout North Africa. At the time of the Almohads, in the 13th century, there were no less than 180 potters in Fez. There are still around fifty potters’ bosses there who each employ four or five workers and apprentices.

The potters themselves prepared their own coloring oxides which remained their secrets, in particular the old greens and blues of Fez that amateurs quickly recognize. Pottery never had more than five colors; the background was white enamel, to which were added brown, green, golden yellow, and blue. If the first four colors have changed a little over the centuries, blue changed from 1853. Indeed, this color was obtained from a cobalt ore that contained nickel. When this ore was refined, removing the nickel from it, the blue became deeper grayer, and from the gray changed to a gray-blue. At the end of the 19th century, blue was then pure blue until nowadays it has become cobalt blue.

The patterns have always had a sought-after composition and are quite varied. There are plant motifs: the flowers offer palms, acanthus leaves, foliage in the form of bouquets, olive stones, almonds, marjoram, jasmine. The motifs can also be epigraphic with very stylized Kufic letters. The geometry is manifested by stars with several points and by star polygons in the form of a central medallion. Other motifs are frequently found such as marine motifs with representations of caravels as well as tortuous interlacing with festoons, hoops and small circles.

However, since the 18th century, if the colors have evolved, it is the same for the decoration of ceramics. Today, glazed and stamped ceramics feature polygonal stars and small floral elements.
Today’s ceramists have kept some traditional shapes like lidded jars and bowls (often adorned with bright colors and dotted patterns, traced with the index finger dipped in tar) – and created more contemporary shapes. tea, salad bowls, vases, cups. The shapes have remained beautiful, their quality is impeccable. The current pottery of Fez is perfectly smooth and its decoration, applied to the entire surface of the pot, does not seem superimposed.