04 Apr Shine bright! An interview with Yahya
His work may be some of the finest in Marrakech, yet this humble artist describes himself as self-taught. A true story of determination and hard-work, Yahya’s works are featured in the finest hotels, including the Royal Mansour, a hotel built entirely by the hands of the finest craftsmen in Morocco, where he also had an exhibition in 2014. Today he regularly travels to the Middle East and India where he has projects currently underway, but his work can also be viewed at the Maison Arabe and also in the red salon at Riad 72 within Marrakech.
We had a chance to catch up with him for a short interview while working in Morocco and to understand the Yahya story – one that grew from a little gallery in the Passage Ghandouri without any signage selling all of its works within weeks thanks to word-of-mouth advertising to a workshop of 300 craftsmen and professionals producing work for international projects.
RL: How did you end up as a lighting designer in Marrakech?
Yahya: Short version is that I was importing Moroccan artisanat in to the UK and I moved out to Morocco, set up a little workshop and helping people export all around the world Moroccan handicrafts from the souks. I employed a few guys to make it better quality. It was just generally that’s been done. Then I ran out of orders. Moroccan stuff wasn’t considered fashionable anymore and I didn’t know what to do. And one of my ten guys came to me and said we want to make something, but I said we had no orders and they pushed me to design something so that they could make it. I told them I’ve been thrown out of art class, not a good idea, but I did it just to shut them up. I enjoyed the process of seeing it be made so I fell in love with the design and construction process. And I was watching what they were doing, I started influencing what they were doing and they made something completely different from what I drew. We made six, seven, eight pieces and then I didn’t take it seriously. I was looking to find a way out of Morocco and do something else and a friend of mine from New York saw what we were doing and she put me in touch with the head buyers at Neiman Marcus. They came over, loved what I was doing and they said they hadn’t seen anything like it and they gave me on the spot loads of orders. I didn’t think it would sell. And it did. Very quickly.
RL: Where do you get your inspiration?
Yahya: Where the inspiration comes from I have no idea. It just pops in to my head. When I’m commissioned to make a bespoke piece, I travel to their place, have a look and then I inspire from what I see. I don’t really create an abstract and then look to see where I can put it. I work the other way around. I visit the space so that what I do works with the architecture and the environment as opposed to force a particular vision upon a place. And then I just see what naturally comes in to my head.
RL: What has been your proudest professional accomplishment to date?
Yayha: I cannot narrow it down to one piece. I literally have been fortunate enough to exceed my wildest dreams a thousand times already and every month it just gets crazier and crazier. I’m very thankful and it humbles me because I’m allowed to be doing so many crazy pieces for crazy people. I cannot single it out to one piece.
RL: What’s next on the horizon?
Yahya: I’m putting together a group of architects, designers and engineers to be able to work on projects from A to Z. I’m working on projects where we’re actually designing the whole concept inside and out from A to Z which is very exciting. I’m doing a lot of art pieces around the world that are bespoke pieces for people. I’m doing a seven-metre chandelier in India. A huge artwork on Lake Garda in a villa in Italy.
Visit Yayha Creation at 61 Rue Yougoslavie in the Passage Ghandouri from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings to view his intricate designs and a showroom where chic clients stop by to commission fine lighting and artworks.