From Retail to Pottery

“I always felt like a creative person, but was never confident enough to do something with it.”

Emma
From Retail to Pottery

Emma Low knew she wasn't cut out for the 9–5. So, boosted by a wave of support from her loved ones, she decided to take a much-loved hobby and turn it into a full-time pursuit. Here's how she made it happen.  

What work were you doing previously?

I was working as an assistant manager for Dr. Martens.

What are you doing now?

I've set up a small pottery business called Pot Yer Tits Away Luv.

Initially, I was doing this in the evening alongside working full time at Dr. Martens. Then, I went full time with it about six months ago.

Currently, I make pots that celebrate human form. I'm mostly known for making tit pots.

My whole brand ethos is to empower people who don't feel represented in mainstream media.

How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?

I'd always worked in retail – it was something I did for money rather than love.

I'd said countless times that I wanted out but I was unsure of what it was that I really wanted to do.

I went part time last summer, and concentrated more on the pottery side of things.

Why did you change?

When I moved back to Leeds to live with my boyfriend I had a choice: to re-apply to my old workplace at Dr. Martens, or to go full-time with my pottery.

By that point the business had picked up quite a bit and people seemed really interested in buying from me. I felt like if I could put as much effort into my own thing as I did working for someone else then I'd be able to succeed.

It was that 'It's now or never' moment! It just timed itself perfectly.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I spoke to my mum about the options I had.

She, along with my friends and boyfriend, really encouraged me to take the plunge.

How did you choose your new career?

I feel like I didn't!

It was a hobby that organically grew into something bigger.

I always felt like a creative person, but was never confident enough to do something with it. The first pot I made was for my boyfriend and that was all I had planned on doing until someone else mentioned that they'd like one of themselves.

It's just snowballed from there.

Are you happy with the change?

Yes!

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss working with other people.

Working alone can be tough, especially if you're having a bad day!

I don't miss setting an alarm. It took me a while to realise that this is my business and if I wanna wake up late and work until later then that's fine. As long as my work is being done then what's the problem?

I was never suited to working 9–5.

How did you go about making the shift?

I already had most of the equipment I needed to make pots, but I had to buy a couple of things like a desk and a chair.

I was lucky that I'd moved into a two-bedroom house with my boyfriend, so our spare room became my studio.

Then I just handed in my notice, crossed my fingers and toes and hoped for the best!

What didn't go well? What wrong turns did you take?

Nothing major has gone wrong yet!

I've made simple mistakes, like trusting people I shouldn't have and taking on too much at once. I'm still learning to say no to some things, which can be hard because it's horrible letting people down. I'm only one person and I can only do so much.

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?

I make pots from air drying clay so it's not expensive to do.

By the time I went part time I had a small following on Instagram and lots of interest, so I've always been able to maintain a steady income.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

Learning how to motivate myself – it's still a daily challenge.

There are so many things I hate doing, like emailing, which is something I have to do regularly. I'm slowly figuring out how to make myself want to do the things I like less.

What help did you get?  

I have very lovely friends and family who are always there when I need a moan or any kind of emotional support.

I did a ten-week ceramics course about a year ago, which helped me with the practical side of things.

Apart from that I've done it all myself, which is something I'm incredibly proud of.

What resources would you recommend to others?

Finding a community is always good.

Keeping in touch or getting to know people through Instagram is what I did and continue to do. I've met a lot of amazing people through the internet in the past year. I think people are very quick to judge when it comes to spending time online but it's certainly helped my business to grow, and kept me sane.

What have you learnt in the process?

I've learnt to have faith in myself.

I think if you've got a good feeling you should follow that. I'm not qualified to do the job I do, but that hasn't stopped me.

The reason I was in retail for so long was because I was comfortable. I was scared of failing and that put me off seeking out a new challenge.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

Stop putting it off and just go for it!

If you have a true passion for something, it will shine through. People will gravitate towards that, but make sure you're ready for some hard work!

What lessons could you take from Emma's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at hello@careershifters.org. and you could win a £25 / $35 Amazon voucher in our monthly draw.