Colourful tiles are found throughout the Alhambra (an earlier post about the site is here). You see them around doors, on floors, covering window seats, on walls forming dados, and in plenty of nooks and crannies. Patterns mix with patterns and borders decorate borders. While I wouldn’t mix it up like this in my home, I think the rhythmic, geometric designs have a pleasing impact.
The mosaic-like tilework is called zillij (or zellige). The centuries-old techniques used to create it are passed from one generation to the next. The video below, From Clay to Mosaics, provides a fascinating overview of how zillij panels are created.
It’s astounding how the craftsmen, using large chisel-headed hammers and steel anvils, gently tap out the small multi-sided shapes from the glazed-tiles. My amazement grew when seeing how the furmah fit precisely together. Assembly of the shapes to create the geometric mosaic panels looks almost like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. There is one key difference, the pieces are placed face down.Source: Habibi Interiors
After watching the video for the umpteenth time (yes, I truly find the work fascinating), it occurred to me that both the processes followed and the designs created have rhythm.
The Pattern in Islamic Art website has photos, diagrams and reference links of that may be interest to the design community, art historians, art aficionados, as well as the curious. A related-site found here provides digitalized patterns, along with geometry and other reference notes.