Now, small businesses have exploded and it’s much easier. You can start your own website, you can go on social media, you can get hundreds and thousands of followers and it’s easy to sell online.
Dr Linda Bloomfield is a materials scientist turned potter. Following a successful early career in x-ray crystallography at Imperial College, she now combines her scientific expertise with her love of crafts to run a successful small business. Linda has gained an expert reputation for specialist chemical glazes and writes books on clays chemistry for potters.
Linda gained her PhD in Engineering Materials Science in 1990 at the University of Warwick, after which she pursued a post-doctoral role at the NEC Corporation, Japan. When recalling her early academic career, Linda explains: “My parents were both academics so pottery as a career never occurred to me. I studied materials engineering and kept up pottery in adult education classes since I didn’t have my own kiln.”
As her career developed, Linda was drawn towards x-ray crystallography and became a Research Fellow at the Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Semiconductor Materials at Imperial College. In 1997, when Linda moved with her husband to Silicon Valley, she had the opportunity to re-evaluate her career and try her hand at professional pottery.
Linda’s venture from science to art wasn’t without its difficulties. She explains: “In the world of pottery, art has a higher perceived value than crafts. So, with no art school background and no mentor, the doors of opportunity in the art world remained shut and I had to find other niches to sell my work.”
But, this wasn’t a deterrent and Linda discovered her own unique selling point at the boundary between art and science. Harnessing the latest research, Linda draw on her experience to apply robust scientific approaches to glaze chemistry and began experimenting with rare earth oxides.
When starting up her business, Linda recalls: “I had to learn from other people. I started going to craft fairs. I asked fellow crafts people what they did, how they sold. It was difficult, but I slowly built my knowledge up." To make her expertise more accessible, Linda began writing books for potters and shared her results on social media.
Linda has now become renowned for specialist glazes and is extending her expertise beyond the arts and sciences, to capitalise on sales opportunities in retail and hospitality.
Explore a timeline of Linda's career