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Posted on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor's Motawi Tileworks enters new market with production of Arts & Crafts Teco pottery vases

By Janet Miller


The new line of Teco pottery vases.

Janet Miller | For

Motawi Tileworks, makers of fine architectural and gift tiles in the Arts and Crafts style, is entering the third dimension.

The Ann Arbor company’s first shipment of vessels - three styles of vases based on historic Teco (American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramic Company) - was shipped this week.

It’s a potential growth area for the 18-year-old company as tile sales have slowed over the past two years, said Nawal Motawi, company owner. It is the first time Motawi, whose tiles are distributed nationwide at nearly 400 outlets, has produced vessels.

The Prairie Arts division of the Prairie Design Group, a Chicago-based firm that, among other things, produces decorative accents in the Prairie style, will market and distribute the vases.

Motawi began research and development after Prairie Design Group made overtures two years ago, Motawi said.

“When 2008 was winding down, sales began to fall off and we knew we were looking at a bad year ahead. When we were approached, we had the time and people to devote to it," she said. "We didn’t know if we could do it, but we suspected that we could.”


Company owner Nawal Motawi with one of the new Teco vases that was shipped Wednesday.

Janet Miller | For

Under the agreement, Motawi will produce the vases using the Teco name, logo and designs. Teco, founded by William Day Gates outside of Chicago in 1899, had 500 designs. Teco designs are architectural, with clean and simple lines, rather than elaborate patterns. It’s unclear when the company stopped making art pottery.

The vases are slip cast, where liquid clay is poured into a plaster mold. It took Motawi two years to develop the molds, design a clay formula, experiment with colors and hone production to bring the vases to market, Motawi said.

“Slip casting is a whole new way of making things,” Motawi said.

Part of the company’s 13,000-square-foot facility on Enterprise Drive in Scio Township had to be revamped to accommodate the new line.

They will start the line with only one color - green - but will add more later, Motawi said.

“We had to scale back our ambition, but we wanted to release something for Christmas.”

There are three styles: Deco, Trumpet and Oak Park. They are reproductions of original Teco designs.

Motawi said she was willing to branch out into vessels from her traditional tiles because she knew she had a buyer with Prairie Design Group.

“It was low risk,” she said. “We knew we had a customer. The key was getting the price right. It took us a year to figure out the cost.”

Motawi said she expects the company to produce between 300 and 350 vases in time for the holidays, and that 2½ positions were added. As the process ramps up, Motawi said she expects to eventually be able to produce 300 to 400 vessels a month within the existing facility.

Retail prices currently range from $120 to $145. The vases appear on the catalog cover of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust fall gift catalog, ShopWright.

Motawi Tileworks has a nationwide reputation and is the sole licensed manufacturer of Frank Lloyd Wright Collection Art Tile under the auspices of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

But by the end of 2011, the company expects to also begin production of its own line of vessels, Motawi said. There’s a ready-made market and distribution channel for its own line of vessels, she said.

“We sell tile at just under 400 galleries nationwide and I think many of them would want (the vases) if they are made to the same standard as the tiles.”

The vessels are being sold on-line at

For more information on Teco pottery, go to


Rebecca @ Motawi

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 11:01 a.m.

@bunny - There aren't any seconds of the vessels at this time. If some become available, I will post on the Motawi Facebook page. Second quality Polychrome (multi-colored) tiles are 1/2 off and Relief/Field tile are $6/lb and are always available during regular business hours in our Studio Gallery. They will be marked down additionally during the Tile Sale & Extravaganza on December 4th.


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 10:46 a.m.

will seconds for the vessels be for sale at the open house? What is the price range for tile seconds? Can seconds be purchased anyother time other than at open house?

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 10:28 a.m.

My dream is to have the counter and backsplash in my kitchen done by Motawi. Their tiles on the walls of U Hospital at the elevators are gorgeous. Individual tiles or sets make great Christmas presents. So nice to know that skill and artistry is appreciated. Great news!!!

Rebecca @ Motawi

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

Hi Everyone - We're manufacturing the vases FOR Prairie Arts / Teco. You will only be able to purchase them through Prairie Arts or the ShopWright link mentioned in the article. We will not be selling them in our Gallery, online store, or wholesale. If you are interested in buying wholesale, please contact Bryan at Prairie Arts - 800.594.3148 x3. We're just starting our production and making only a few a day but hope to improve our processes along the way. We do offer a FREE PUBLIC TOUR every Thursday morning at 11am. We will also be offering a HAUNTED TOUR at 11am on Saturday, October 30th. Our upcoming Tile Sale & Extravaganza (our "open house") will be held on Saturday, December 4th from 10am to 3pm. There will be tilemaking demos, tours, a FREE make your own tile workshop, and discounts of First and Second quality tiles. Our gallery is open M-F 10-5 and Saturday 10-3. Check out our Fan Page on Facebook for the latest happenings at Motawi!

Ingrid Ault

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 9:59 a.m.

@amazon warrior - Yes! They offer free tours every Thursday at 11 am. Just show up and they will walk you through their facility. It's fun for all ages!


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 8:50 a.m.

Beautiful, absolutely beautiful! Does Motawi Tileworks offer tours like the Pewabic Pottery Co., in Detroit? I would enjoy touring the facility, if they do. The design is simple but elegant and I would LOVE to own several pieces in COBALT BLUE (hint, hint)!


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 8:18 a.m.

One look see and I've fallen in love. Simply elegant.


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 8:11 a.m.

Their line of tiles is available at the Ann Arbor Art Center downtown. I wonder if these new vases will be available there, too?


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 7:27 a.m.

Motawi Tileworks is one of Ann Arbor's treasures! Consistently wonderful products, a positive work environment, and forward thinking business style. Not involved in it myself, but have come to appreciate this gem for what it is over the years - the entire community should take pride in this expansion!


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 7:15 a.m.

I never knew thier was an owner...and named Motawi at that. Great job and beautiful vases. Expand all you want - you are doing a great job Ms. MATOWI..


Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 6:35 a.m.

Nice I GOTTA have one!

Kim Kachadoorian

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 : 5:13 a.m.

Congratulations Motawi Tileworks. I must say GORGEOUS! But I am very partial to that color. Just saw the tweet from and had to comment!