Skip to content

How to turn a hobby into a career

It’s often been thought that you can’t turn an artistic hobby into a profitable business. Despite that, there are people out there proving that you can – and Lucy Burley is one of them.

It’s often been thought that you can’t turn an artistic hobby into a profitable business. Despite that, there are people out there proving that you can – and Lucy Burley is one of them.

Harmonising form and colour, Lucy has taken a traditional art form, and injected her style and passion to give it a modern twist. Pottery went from being Lucy’s 6-11 to her 9-5, proving that you can make a successful career out of doing the things you love.

Tell us a little bit about your background – how did you turn your 6-11 into a career?

I had a previous career in television, I worked in production and then post production. I didn’t find it very creatively fulfilling, so I started going to art classes. Over time, part-time classes outside of work developed into full-time art studies. I did a art foundation course, followed by a degree in ceramics. I graduated in 1996, and have been a potter ever since.

Luckily, I was able to do freelance television work in tandem with starting my own studio. I did as many TV jobs as I needed to, until I developed enough sales outlets.

How have you developed your creative process to find one that works for you?

I really enjoy testing and experimenting. I spent a lot of time trying to find the right finish for my vessels. I knew I wanted something smooth, with an egg like sheen. So, while I was at college, I invented and formulated a glaze that had the finish that I hadn’t been able to find elsewhere.

The base is a creamy ivory colour. I concoct different recipes of metallic oxides and glaze stains to get my range of colours and then add these to my base glaze in small quantities – my colours go through the spectrum, with a variety of hues.

How do you manage your time?

I have to plan my time quite strictly as I supplement my sales with teaching. My teaching has a few different strands; I hold private tuition at my studio here – mostly throwing at the wheel, as well as teaching all over Hampshire and Surrey.

My work is sold through around 20 galleries, and directly to the public through my website. So, I’m constantly busy, fulfilling orders for these alongside my direct commissions, plus my teaching.

So, how do you stay true to your medium, whilst also putting your mark on it to create a modern and relevant product?

I use a traditional method of throwing on the wheel, but just because it’s traditional, it doesn’t mean you have to make a traditional looking pot – you can create work as contemporary as you’d like it to be.

I’m so glad that I get to continue the ancient tradition of pottery – there’s nothing better than the fact that you’re taking mud, putting it through an elemental process and creating something that will last forever.

I’ve actually made things like medieval tiles, dinosaurs and ming vases as part of the workshops that I’ve delivered at museums which is fantastic! And, whilst I love making the work that I do, it’s great being able to take my art form back to its traditional roots.

In your own words, you aim to “harmonise form and colour”, what does this mean?

I really agonised over the phrase ‘harmony of form and colour’. I wanted to find something that described my work and the products I create. The forms should work together as a family – similar to a family portrait – where the members of the group look similar but not identical. It should be a pleasurable journey for the eye as it travels over a group of vessels – the colours should harmonise with each other.

I’m really inspired by the still life paintings of Giorgio Morandi – he painted groups of vessels, allowing them to harmonise whilst using such subtle colours. You can’t really place his work as coming from a particular era, and I’d like my work to have the same timeless, elegant quality as his paintings.

  • Lucy Burley pottery
  • Lucy Burley pottery

What are you doing to promote your brand, and how do you use MOO’s range of products to support you with this?

I recently re-branded my website to modernise things and I use social media to drive awareness of my work. I’ve used MOO for years as I’ve always been delighted with the quality of the products. I use Printfinity – it allows me to upload a different image to each business card – which is great as I’ve got such a broad range of vessels and colours. I love having a card for every piece.

I’ve used MiniCards, Business Cards and Postcards before. Postcards allow me to showcase my range of work and I love being able to add correspondance onto the back for that personal touch. I always put a card in the box when I send pots off to customers, and I try to match the card to the item they’ve bought – that’s the beauty of having the Printfinity option! I always use MOO’s online templates. Without them, I couldn’t have made such professional looking cards!

What are your tips for anyone who might be thinking about setting out on a similar path to you?

I’m sure everybody says this, but follow your heart. It’s the most important thing you can do. If you love something, put as much energy into it as you possibly can and it will reward you with great satisfaction, and hopefully a very happy life.

Feeling inspired? Start creating your own postcards

Keep in touch

Get design inspiration, business tips and special offers straight to your inbox with our MOOsletter, out every two weeks.

Sign me up!