Hawthorn Galleries carries a variety of Motawi Tiles. Please contact the gallery for current inventory.
Motawi Tileworks’ art tile aesthetic is firmly rooted in the turn of the century Arts and Crafts style. 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 tilework like that!” In 1992 she set out on her own, starting what soon became the Motawi Tileworks. Her brother Karim joined her as a business partner after graduating from college later that year.
In the beginning the pair spent many hours researching the ideas, aesthetics and production techniques of the period. Through their interest and continued study they have gained a keen understanding of the work of the Arts & Crafts period. “We aren’t really trying to duplicate works of the past,” says Karim “Rather we are trying to create new work that embodies some of the same design principles and intangible qualities as those early works.”
There are a few particular potteries of the period that are the lodestars for the Motawis on their 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 their 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 hand dipped field tile (industry lingo for plain).
Motawi tile designs are a blend of art from the turn of the century and the 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 this duo and their artisan team is at the top of their craft.