Lamps in ornate brass covered with intricate designs thrown into relief as shadows on the wall, huge lamps hanging from the ceiling, framed wooden Arabic calligraphy and the finest metalwork hangs on the walls of Yahya Rouach’s show room in Marrakech’s modern quarter, Guéliz. It feels as if you have entered the splendors of the golden age of Islamic art with the clear precise lines of modern design. It has the western elegance and economy of style as well as the richness and exuberance of the East. There are silver nickel boxes and superb wooden creations using Arabic geometric and floral Moroccan designs and calligraphy. Elegant proportions, subtle imaginative and effective use of light, sobriety and richness of design, nobility of materials and a jeweler’s meticulous precision characterize the work of Yahya Rouach.
He was born in London in 1972 and his father came originally from Meknes, his mother is Anglo German. He came over to Marrakech in 2005 with his wife and six children from London after an earlier visit in 2004. He was fascinated by the brass work and silver designs he saw in the souk. He began by exporting artifacts to London and started drawing and experimenting with his own designs, he was having fun and then he began to take it seriously.
Yahya’s creations are a mixture of East and West. He was selling his work to Harrods and other outlets and night clubs in London and Nieman Marcus a US company which gave him his first substantial order that really set him up. In six weeks he ran out of stock and realised the importance of taking time to create artistic excellence, so clients were encouraged to come to him rather than the other way round. He works strictly to order due to demand. He is entirely self taught and had no formal training. He does what he likes and each creation is entirely original. Each piece he creates from the smallest to the largest specially commissioned works of art becomes a collector’s item transcending time and fashion. He is driven by his passion for design and creative imagination.
Yahya Rouach selects young craftsmen and trains them.To produce such treasures he needs highly qualified and creative staff. The process is different from the craftsmen in the souk because their work is essentially repetitive whereas Yaha Rouach is drawing out the abilities of our people so that they create original work. He does not believe in pushing people beyond their limits but he encourages his workers to extend their abilities and this works. Yahya has his workshop in Sidi Youssef with two hundred craftsmen.
The work is intricate and takes weeks and months of dedicated work to complete, hammering and chiselling the brass or nickel silver or wood with the delicate patterns that start their life on paper. Often more than one craftsman works on the design and it becomes a team effort. It is not something that can be rushed and his clients know this, so they are prepared to wait because perfection such as this cannot be mass produced to order. Yahya is well known for his metal work. His team design and create collections that are diverse in terms of materials and style using glass, wood, stone and fabrics. From lighting and furniture through to decorative accessories and objet d’art. He is always exploring new materials and forms of artistic expression in order to develop his style and vision.
Many royal families and important personalities in the Middle East particularly like Yahya’s work and he has many clients in the United States and Europe and of course Morocco, so he has an international clientele for whom we we work on private commissions. He won the contract to provide leading pieces and decoration for the Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech which is owned by His Majesty King Mohammed VI. Yahya does not normally work for hotels but this was special and a great honour. They gave him a completely free hand on what his team did for the project and it was a fantastic project to work on. Yahya Rouach’s clients know his work and come to him when they want something special, of the highest quality and totally original. Each project Yahya’s team works on is unique and has its own special ambience.
Artistic creativity is flourishing in Morocco and Yahya Rouach does everything he can to support it. He has acted as a judge at Riad Art Expo in Marrakech and he creates the prize called “Les Palmes de Marrakech “ for the Biennale for Contemporary Arts in Marrakech. He encourages participants to strive for excellence, creativity, originality and quality. He reflects that Moroccan artistic creativity is endless and has an infinite variety and the craftsmen’s role is alive and well and rooted in history. It needs nurturing in turbulent times. Turkey , Iran and conflict torn Syria have superb craftsmen in brass, nickel silver and wood but Yahya Rouach has said that Morocco is definitely the best and Moroccan craftsmen are sort after all over the world