Born in London, Yahya Rouach never thought he would make a career in the arts until, on a trip to Marrakech, he discovered the universe of sculpturing light and metalwork. In 2005, he opens a workshop there, unburdened by what was traditional and doing things his own way.
Today, his collections of lights, furniture, accessories and decorative pieces feature in hotels and other venues the world over, including popular address of our Collection: The Royal Mansour. And sitting with us for an interview, he tells us his story.
Meet Yahya Rouach
GLH: Yahya, for the people who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your story? How did you fall in love with metalwork?
Yahya Rouach: I am self-taught, and never did I imagine that I could have a career in art. When I was younger, I was even rejected from my art class. I studied philosophy in London, then I got into event organizing and martial arts. I decided to come to Morocco just to discover my father’s country, and that’s when I fell in love with the sun and light here. I brought small lanterns back to London from my trip, and a few years later, I came back and started my own workshop. At the time, I had about ten employees but we also didn’t have a lot of work. .
My story really started when a man came to me one day and asked me to design lamps for him. And so I made 6 or 7 small pieces. When a friend of mine saw them, she thought they were beautiful. She then introduced me to a buyer who acquired pieces for Neiman Marcus. So I created a collection for them and we worked together for a year. he pieces sold out and then through word of mouth, things just blew up, and that’s how I caught the attention of the Royal Mansour and how our collaboration began.
GLH: Can you tell us what the art of metalworking is all about?
Yahya Rouach: First of all, it’s all about light. That was the first thing that caught my eye and appealed to me; the way light is used to project designs. However, I always thought that it was a shame that we would see the source of the light itself so I decided to hide it, and that’s how metalwork came into play. Metal is a heritage that has existed in the kingdom for hundreds of years, and there are great masters here like Moulay Youssef who made the front door of the Royal Mansour with his father. And from there, I fell in love with brassware, because I’m self-taught and I don’t know anything, so I see things differently.
GLH: Is there a special piece you produced for the Royal Mansour?
Yahya Rouach: We were lucky that we were invited by the decorators to work on all the main pieces. Apart from the famous front door of Moulay Youssef, we made the large doors of the restaurant, the fireplace accessories, the large chandeliers that are inside …..the cigar bar, the fountains. I was asked to do something a little modern and these were what I came up with.
GLH: How long did it take you to complete all the work for the Royal Mansour?
Yahya Rouach: The Royal Mansour was realized intensely. They completed the hotel in about 3 years, I think, which is unprecedented in the hotel industry. And we had a very short period of time to complete all the commissioned work, so about 2 years I would say.
GLH: And you have a special relationship with the hotel now?
Yahya Rouach: At the Royal Mansour, you never really feel like you’re in a hotel because it’s so amazing. It’s a magical place where things happen. For me, it’s more than a hotel; it feels like a family home, and I think the people who go there feel the same way about it.
It is an exceptional hotel; nowhere in the world have I seen such attention to details, to the point where one could even say that the finish was almost obsessive. There isn’t the slightest flaw; they really set the bar very high and it is a tribute to Moroccan artisans and artists.
GLH: Can you tell us about one piece at the Royal Mansour that you really like?
Yahya Rouach: There was that one time when we had a magnificent exhibition with Imane Oulaali, Artistic Director of the Royal Mansour, where we had transformed the Royal Mansour, open to the outside. One of the monumental pieces in the exhibition was a 2.5-meter stainless steel globe. The problem was to find a way to bring it inside the building. We had to use a crane that went through very narrow places, and everyone was very worried. But in the end, everything went well!
GLH: How about the design of those magnificent chandeliers? What kind of work goes into those?
Yahya Rouach: Everything is done by hand: it is the beauty of Morocco. We have adapted the work of jewelers who worked with gold and silver to decorative accessories. Traditionally, metal was struck with a hammer or chisel to puncture it so that light could project the patterns. Having hired jewelers to do this work allowed us to chisel out all the little pieces of metal so that they became like lace. This is what gives value to metal, we have worked with metal like we would do if we were making jewels. It was something unthinkable for such a large chandelier, the cost of labor on each piece was unimaginable. People ask me why I don’t do this with a laser. It’s simple. When it’s done by hand, it has a certain soul, and if things were perfectly made, the brain wouldn’t appreciate it the same way. The brain is programmed to appreciate small imperfections.
GLH: How many people would you say worked on the biggest chandelier?
Yahya Rouach: About 50 people I would say. One person would take years to make the same piece. The chandelier was soldered with silver; this piece and all those we make can last through the ages. We do what no one else can; we do the impossible!
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