Beginning in 1775, he worked for the firm of Wedgwood and Bentley, and then Josiah Wedgwood, for twelve years. He provided models for friezes, plaques, portrait busts, bas reliefs, and vessels.
By 1780, he began receiving commissions for monuments and memorial sculpture. During much of his later life, they provided a significant source of his income; and their survival in churches and public spaces are still, in part, responsible for his surviving fame. In 1787, he left for seven years' study of classical art and architecture in Rome. That residence in Rome expanded his experience and his connections to the European art world. He remained in contact with Wedgwood, however, and his increasing familiarity with and understanding of the surviving artifacts of the classical world is believed to have been a significant contribution to the objects produced at Wedgwood's potteries at Etruria.
Today his name is most widely recognized for his sculpture, and his illustrations for such great works as the Iliad, Odyssey, and Pilgrim's Progress; but his influence on the ceramic arts should not be forgotten.