At the age of fourteen, Thorley started a seven-year apprenticeship at the prestigious Wedgwood company, the most famous pottery in all of Great Britain. Upon completion he was called into military service and fought for the British in World War I. After the war, Thorley returned to Wedgwood for a short time before launching his career as a successful designer for other companies in Staffordshire. As a young professional, Thorley had his finger on the pulse of fashion for mainstream tableware. He created new patterns for plates and dishes inspired by the world around him, looking often to new trends, but also looking backwards to old techniques that could be resurrected. By 1927 Thorley not only was a talented designer with a proven track record in the market place but also an astute businessman who decided to bring his expertise to the growing pottery industry in the United States.