Thorley immigrated to East Liverpool, Ohio, home of America’s industrial potteries, in 1927. America’s ceramics industry had long lagged behind England’s Staffordshire district but that status began to change with the rise in demand for cheaper, domestically-made housewares. By the 1920s the clay-rich regions in Ohio and West Virginia had emerged as major manufacturing centers.
Thorley, like many other European designers moving to America, brought with him the traditional techniques and designs that he had learned at home. But tastes were ever changing and young designers began to dream up new forms and decoration unlike any made before. Thorley responded quickly to these shifting aesthetics. In East Liverpool he worked as a freelance design consultant to create whatever the individual companies desired, an arrangement that suited Thorley’s creative instincts. Before long he was a sought-after designer working for the most prestigious tableware producers in America.