Sunday, June 30, 2013

Motawi Tileworks -- Nothing Square Here

My recent visit to Ann Arbor included a trip to Motawi Tileworks -- a business founded by Nawal Motawi, who is also the principal designer  The company creates beautiful hand-crafted tiles with monochrome and polychrome designs.  I was immediately taken by the gorgeous designs and colors.  In addition to Nawal's designs, the company also has associations with other artists and organizations including the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.  Pictures can say more than my words, so......

The four designs on the left originated with artist Cary Phillips.

 Charley Harper's "Cool Cardinal"

Though several of the processes involved in creating the tiles can be done mechanically, every tile gets the hands-on treatment at least ten times during its evolution.  Some of these call for low-tech tools like the simple band-aid which protects the worker's finger as he smooths sharp edges.  Colored glazes are applied using bulb syringes.

"Boy Reading" mural

These tiles are based on block prints by artist Yoshiko Yamamoto.

Nawal Motawi is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Art and Design where she studied ceramics and sculpture.  She started her own business making tiles in her garage and selling them at a local farmers' market.  Today the tileworks, now  in its own large studio, employs over two-dozen people.

When we (a group of journalists) visited, Nawal arranged for us to make our own tiles.   Even though all we did was use a variety of stamps to press designs into the clay (they glazed and fired the tiles and mailed them to us) we still felt pretty creative.  Funny, she didn't ask to use any of our designs!

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