Launching A New Tile | A Behind the Scenes Look at the Four Month Process

In October of 2015, Motawi Tileworks began an aggressive plan to release a new art tile every month. Sounds fairly benign, doesn't it? Believe it or not, it takes four months from concept to release with a whole bunch of people involved. Here's an inside look how we do it! 

First, our Product Development Captain creates a timeline. On it is every step of the process, the date goals are to be met and the person responsible for the task. At the top of the timeline is the release date for the tile, and the timeline begins four months before, on day zero.

Large gaps in the timeline are built-in to allow for design tweaks, reworks and mistakes along the way. This is by far not a perfect process as we have learned, so it is evolving as we go along. Communication among the team members is key and the team meets monthly to ensure things are moving along as intended.




It all starts with an idea. For this blog, we are using the Yoshiko Yamamoto-designed tile, 4x8 Ugly Duckling. Yoshiko has designed several Motawi tiles and we are always delighted with her designs.

As the timeline says, it's the artwork that kicks the process into motion. The original design is 'tweaked' if you will, in Adobe Illustrator and must be sent to the artist for approval. 

Once the original artwork is submitted and approved, several different colorway patterns are created and submitted once again to the artist for approval. As is the case many times, ideas are pulled from each concept to create the final colorway choice.

Now that we have approval on paper, it's time to create the prototype. The image below is a digital simulation of the tile before it is cut by the CNC (computer numerical control) machine. 

It takes about two hours for the machine to cut the image into hard wax. First the machine cuts the thickness of the tile, which for all Motawi tiles is 5/8". Then the actual design is cut. Liquid rubber is then poured into the wax and is allowed to cure. This becomes our permanent tile which is cast into plaster to create the actual die (or mold).

Left: Air network creation;  Top right: hard wax on CNC router table; Bottom right: Plaster die

It's time to start pressing tiles, bisque firing them, and creating physical prototypes which are sent to the artist for approval. Once the prototype gets the green light, it's time to fill stock. We give the shops and galleries that carry our tile about an eight week 'heads-up' that a tile is coming out. This gives them time to place their orders and gives us time to know how much tile to make so that on launch day we have enough for everyone, galleries AND customers.

Now that we have an approved tile, pre-orders in and the marketing materials written and produced, it's time to launch that tile. Hardly ugly, right?