Zineb Bennani is the creative force behind ZELART, a project which combines a traditional part of Moroccan design – the zellige – with her own artistic inspiration. So I thought it was time to catch up with her here on #MeetTheMaker.
#1 TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK
I am from Casablanca but moved to Tangier 3 years ago with my family. My husband and I literally fell in love with this multi-faceted city. In Casablanca I was a Floral Designer, and it was a job that gave me a lot of pleasure and creative satisfaction, but when i arrived in Tangier it was time for something new. Fashion has always fascinated me and the past few years have been taken up by a collaboration that resulted in our own brand of childrens clothing – WakWak Studio. This was a wonderful adventure, but after a while it came to an end when I started to feel that that creative pleasure of the process was being taken over by the frantic pace of work this sector requires. It was time to move onto new adventures, and as we closed the doors on WakWak, others opened, and I took part in an art exhibition which put me on the path to explore the creative possibilities of the zelige and carved Zelart.
Zelart has become my new baby – it fascinates me and brings together the two areas of work I enjoy the most, creativity and manual work. I am able to work and create from the raw zellige tile with all its imperfections. Each is unique and with surprising colours and I am able to work on this to give it a new and more contemporary expression.
#2 WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR DESIGNS?
Art is my main source of inspiration. I am always in galleries or online following what is going on in this exciting and inspiring world. So taking this inspiration I will sometimes create a Zelart that refelcts the work of other artists, both the famous and those less well known. I have also asked artists to translate their own drawings into Zelart – this was the creative process behind the piece “Teaching the Sea”, the Zelart of the painter Sallahdine Bouanani whose work I love.
I also take inspiration from my home environment which is so special to me and this has resulted in the Beldi Range where people can take a bit of Morocco home with them. I love the idea that people can make a selection of Zelart and by assembling several tiles which they have chosen they are then participating in the creative process and in fact creating their own work of Zelart.
#3 WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF THE DESIGN PROCESS FOR YOU?
For me the best part is essentially the creation of the drawing. As this develops it immediately makes me want to translate it onto the tile and to see the result, which is always a surprise. It sounds simple but it is not! Because the zellige is a monochrome base it is important to find the right balance between what remains untouched and which parts will work best to remove the glaze and thus reveal the design.
#4 DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE DESIGN?
Honestly no . . . I love them all!
Each one has a story and therefore a particular significance to me. Some of the designs are more commercial than others but I also love working on contemporary themes that are in the spirit of the times and this gives me the freedom to offer more eccentric Zelarts like the Pussy Power range created for the wonderful Tangier bookstore Les Insolites which allows for a less commercial presentation of Zelart.
#5 PLANS & DREAMS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD?
In the short term I am working on the launch of our website, and if all goes well it should be up and running in early for March. Following on from that would be the opening of our small show room for people to be able to visit. On a bigger scale I would love to get e bigger audience for my project beyond the borders of Morocco and be able to share some of the Moroccan creativity and skill.
#6 WHERE CAN PEOPLE BUY YOUR DESIGNS?
At the moment youcan find the designs in several cities in Morocco: In Tangier you can find Zelart in the lovely book shop and gallery of Les Insolites, a place I always love spending time in – as well as the concept shop of Las Chicas.
In Rabat you can find us at the concept store Bee on 6th.
I am also often contacted via Zelart on Instagram with specific design requests and am always happy to work with these requests.
#7 AND FINALLY . . . YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE FOR COFFEE (OR TEA)IN TOWN!!
Without a doubt, the Rif Café at the Cinematheque. I often sit there on the terrace and enjoy this popular and bohemian melting pot. There are not many places like this. Its an inspiring place filled with history along with a creative and sparkling energy! Apple pie with mint tea is a must!
CREDIT: All images by Sarah Charpentier