Nawal Motawi founded Motawi Tileworks in 1992. A University of Michigan art school graduate with a restless spirit and an interest in applied arts, Nawal moved to Detroit to learn tilemaking at Detroit’s storied Pewabic Pottery. She returned to Ann Arbor after just two years to begin making her own tiles in a garage studio and selling them from a stand she rented at the local farmers market.
Today, Nawal is still designing and making tiles in Ann Arbor. In 2011, she purchased her clay supplier, Rovin Ceramics moving it from Taylor, Michigan to Ann Arbor. Combined, the two companies employ more than 35 people. Nawal proudly operates both businesses using the Open Book style of management and the Toyota style of lean production management.
Motawi tiles are sold in over 300 shops and galleries across the United States. Motawi murals and tile installations are in countless homes and public places with large installations at such institutions as the University of Michigan, Yale University and Disneyland. In 2016, Motawi Tileworks was named the Michigan Small Business Association Woman Owned Small Business of the Year.
Nawal is proud to be both a Michigan native and an Arab American. Nawal’s father, Kamal El Din Hussein Motawi is a first generation immigrant to the United States. In the early 1960s he came to Michigan State University to study food science. It was at MSU where he met Nawal’s mother, Karen Kitson. Together, they raised their family in Fremont, Michigan. Nawal has an impressive teen-aged son, Kitson Dong.
Recently, Motawi tiles have been featured in Detroit Home Magazine and The Ann Arbor News, and on WDIV-Local 4 News, WJBK-FOX 2 and the National PBS Series Craft in America.