In the Studio
Motawi Tileworks makes three kinds of tile:
Polychrome tiles have many colors separated by a tiny ridge of clay. This particular style is known as cuenca.
Relief tiles have a raised, sculptural quality and are hand-dipped in a single-color glaze.
Field tiles are flat and hand-dipped in a single color-glaze.
A plaster mold with the inverted design is mounted into the top of the press.
A pug (block of clay) is placed on the bottom mold.
The 60-ton press closes on the pug, forming the tile. The extra clay flows out of the mold.
Air is used to release the tile from the top mold and the tile slides off the lower mold.
The tiles are placed on racks and await trimming.
Extra clay is trimmed away and recycled.
The rough edges are smoothed away.
The tile is then dried and bisque fired. After the tiles cool off, they’ll be unloaded for glazing.
Polychrome tiles are made by pooling the glazes with bulb syringes into the areas delineated by the tiny ridges of clay.
Relief and field tiles are hand-dipped in glaze. (The raw glaze color doesn’t indicate the final color of the glaze.)
After glazing, the tiles are loaded back into the kilns for their final firing.
When the tiles come out of the kilns, they are checked for flaws and sorted for packing and shipping.