At their Ann Arbor, MI studio, Nawal Motawi and her staff of talented artisans carry on American tile-making traditions, crafting beautifully made work from locally-produced clay and signature glazes mixed on-site. Nawal, who opened the tileworks in 1992, studied sculpture and ceramics at the University of Michigan and learned tile-making techniques at Pewabic Pottery in Detroit. She acts as chief designer while her brother Karim, who recently left the company, assisted with establishing studio and process innovation. Nawal’s aesthetic influences include the work of early 20th century decorative artists such as Mary Chase Stratton, Lois Sullivan, and Dard Hunter. In 2007, Motawi Tileworks formed a partnership with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to produce a line based on historic Wright motifs, and, in 2008, added designs by Japanese wood block artist Yoshiko Yamamoto.
Tiles from Nawal’s studio present handsomely as is or in Motawi’s bespoke solid oak frames. Karim has stated: “Motawi tile has a warm rustic charm that is impossible to achieve with mass production. So we make our tile the old fashioned way. We pore over the histories of old tileworks seeking design inspiration and production techniques. More than once we have looked at an old photograph and said, ‘Aha! That’s how they did that!’ And now that’s how we do it too.”