Nawal Motawi is the founder and principal designer of Motawi Tileworks of Ann Arbor, Michigan. With her team of designers and craftspeople she created hand-made, historically-informed art tile for distinctive installations and as art pieces.
Motawi Tileworks was started in 1992. After Nawal studied ceramics and figure sculpture in art school, she took a job making tile at the storied Pewabic pottery in Detroit, where she could learn tile-making from the pros and keep a mini-studio in the basement. After a couple of years she discovered that she needed to be her own employer, so she set up a studio in an Ann Arbor, Michigan garage. It was here that she began to develop the tile designs and glazes that would define the Motawi Tileworks’ style.
Motawi’s polychrome tile decorators are affectionately referred to as “the Bee Gees,” short for “bulb glazers,” because they use bulb syringes to pool glaze onto the tiles. In this centuries-old technique-called cuenca, or simply raised-line – colour areas are separated by the tiny ridges of clay that are formed in the pressing process. As one can imagine, it takes patience, focus and steady hands to be a good bulb glazer!