Nawal Motawi founded Motawi Tileworks more than 20 years ago. A University of Michigan art school graduate with an interest in applied arts, Nawal learned tilemaking at Detroit’s storied Pewabic pottery. She returned to Ann Arbor after a few years and began making her own tiles in a small Ann Arbor garage and selling them at the local farmers’ market. The rest is history. Today, Motawi Tileworks carries on the legacy of fine American art tile. We take great pride in our work, in creating something timeless and beautiful.
Every one of our tiles is hand-trimmed, hand-sanded, hand-dipped, and hand-glazed. Every single one of our tiles is hand-handled 28 times.
We make our plaster molds from our own proprietary clay recipe. After our tiles are pressed, they’re hand-trimmed and the edges are sanded and smoothed with another proprietary tool: A band-aid clad thumb. Our tiles are fired twice—the first to bisque, a matte white finish, and the second with color. While the field tile is dipped into a single glaze, our polychrome (multi-colored) tiles are colored with bulb syringes fitted with a fine tip. The “bulb glazers”—we have eight—pool the glaze between the tile’s raised lines, an old Spanish technique known as “Cuenca.” (Turn your tile over to see the name of the person who glazed it.) After the tiles are fired a second time, each one is given a rigorous review to make sure its color is on, that its raised lines are all raised, and that it doesn’t bear the mark of all that human touch. Then, and only then, do we make our tile available to you. We hope that you love our work as much as we do.
Motawi Tileworks employs a staff of 30 and produces over 10,000 square feet of tile per year. You can buy Motawi tiles in our online gift tile store, by visiting us at our Ann Arbor gallery, or at one of 450 showrooms, galleries, and gift shops nationwide.
Above left: Nawal Motawi
Above right: Nawal and the Tileworks staff