Derby was born in Lansing, Michigan, in 1960. He studied at California State University and did a yearlong apprenticeship at John Glick’s ceramic studio in Michigan. He then began his studio career in Arizona and participated in several exhibitions. After moving to Louisiana, Derby dedicated himself to the handcrafted production of high-quality pottery and tiles, and in 2000 he opened Derby Pottery & Tile in New Orleans with his wife. Extremely interested in collecting architectural salvage, he makes Victorian reproduction tile with the idea of preserving historical patterns and colors. Derby has also taught at Tulane University.