Nawal Motawi | Ann Arbor, MI


Nawal Motawi, founder of Motawi Tileworks, was first exposed to the tile of the Arts & Crafts Movement at Pewabic Pottery, which she visited during her first college ceramics class. “My professor had just completed a gigantic tile mural created with Pewabic Pottery, which he took us all to see,” says Nawal, “and I immediately began to fantasize about someday making tile work like that!” In 1992 she set out on her own, starting what soon became the Motawi Tileworks.

In the beginning Nawal spent many hours researching the ideas, aesthetics and production techniques of the period. Through her interest and continued study she has gained a keen understanding of the work of the Arts & Crafts period.

There are a few particular potteries of the period that are the lodestars for Nawal on her artistic journey. Pewabic, Rookwood, and Grueby in particular inspire their glaze surfaces and palette of colors. Louis Sullivan, Ernest Batchelder, and Frank Lloyd Wright among others inform the sculptural work. The Motawi style is a fusion of influences that makes for a style all its own.

The Tileworks has focused on two distinct decorative styles. The “Relief” tiles have a sculptural quality in low-relief and are colored with a single glaze.The “Polychrome” tiles have many colors separated by a tiny ridge of clay. A third type of tile made at Motawi is the “Field” tile (industry lingo for plain).

Motawi tile designs are a blend of art from the turn of the century and the Nawal Motawi’s design sensibility. The designs are brought to life by a tile-making process which is a journey itself. Improving their techniques of pressing, glazing, and mold-making is a bit of an obsession in the studio. The artful tile—the outcome of this shared obsession—is evidence that Nawal and her artisan team is at the top of their craft.

Nawal identifies with the philosophy and social ideals of the movement and has applied them to growing the business. An open book philosophy helps to keep the entire staff involved with the financial health of the studio.

If you would like to learn more about Motawi Tileworks, check out the book, Motawi Tileworks, Contemporary Handcrafted Tiles in the Arts & Crafts Tradition.

At Motawi Tileworks the staff and ownership have jointly developed a Vision and Ideals to live by:


  • We are respected as a great company and for our products
  • The staff is prospering as the Tileworks prospers
  • We are acting out our highest ideals through the Tileworks


  • Act with compassion, respect and integrity
  • Impact the community in positive ways
  • Foster healthy relationships by fostering healthy communication
  • Support staff development
  • Have fun

And “have fun” we do—the studio is full of characters, art, colorful signs, toys, tile-clad lockers and celebrations. Staff meetings are spirited and full of debate and humor.

Announcement: Welcome!

Although the event is still the third week in July Fair days have changed to Thursday through Sunday  Please join us for the 2018 Art Fair Thursday July 19 – Sunday July 22! “Diversity, Live it on South U.” Located on the south edge of the U of M campus, the South University Area is […]