Design Stories | Wyandotte Street Art Fair Mini Mural

Creating beautiful tiles is what we do here at Motawi Tileworks. From handmade art tiles to custom installations for the home, Motawi tiles are literally all over the country. Our tile is very much art, and as artists, the possibilities of our work are endless. Frequently, we get requests to design custom murals. These are made to either commemorate a special occasion or simply to add to the collection of an individual buyer. In this bonus issue of Design Stories, we take you through the process of our most recent custom commemorative mural: The Wynadotte Street Art Fair mural.

First, the design idea is submitted to us at Motawi. Our graphic artist literally draws the design on a computer using the InDesign software package. From there, the design is sent to our mold maker where it is routed through a CNC router into a machine that cuts the design into a block of hard wax. Then, liquid rubber is poured into the wax and a rubber tile is made. This is our "forever" tile which will then be used to make the mold. The mold is made using plaster with an air network inside. It cures and the tile is ready to be pressed. This is the first time we can see the tile really coming to life. 


Left: hard wax with rubber tile; Top right: completed plaster mold (die); Bottom right; clay pug in press

After the tile is pressed, it is trimmed, edged, dried and placed on a rack to be fired for the first time turing it into bisque. The bisque tile is then ready for a wax coat on the bottom (so it doesn't get glaze on it and stick to the kiln shelf) and it is glazed.


Left: freshly pressed polychrome tile; Right: hand-trimming excess clay from polychrome tile

Depending on the design, the tile is either dip glazed if it is a relief tile or bulb glazed if it is a polychrome (multi-colored) tile. As you can see, this mini mural is all polychrome, so it is hand glazed using a bulb syringe. To make the image whole, the mural was divided into four 6x6 tiles to make the full image. So yes, four molds had to be made.


Left: hand bulb glazing custom polychrome tile; Right: custom polychrome tile hot out of the kiln

The finished product; mounted, grouted and framed.