Tom Pilgrim was leading a tour through Patagonia when the pandemic hit and had to evacuate everyone concerned from Chile as quickly as possible. Here he explains why he now finds himself creating things from a shed in Suffolk
I studied and worked as a product designer but then gave up the office life eight years ago to become a Tour Leader with a great Suffolk-based company, Dragoman Overland Travel, driving and leading adventure travel tours all over the world. I am not normally based in the UK for many weeks each year. This year has forced me back to Suffolk, but it has been nice to spend a whole year here and properly reconnect with the area.
Everything was looking great for me in February 2020. I had work booked up through to April 2021 and a few options in the pipeline after that. I was leading a tour through Patagonia when the pandemic hit. I had left the UK just after Christmas and in the far south of South America we were quite Isolated from the news, so it came as a big surprise when Europe started going into lockdowns, and the severity of the pandemic became clear to us. In the space of a week everything was completely upended for me. I had to evacuate everyone from Chile and get back to the UK as quickly as possible. Luckily, I had family members that could accommodate me at very short notice!
I have always been a practical person – and enjoyed making things for myself and my friends. I first started working on my own designs towards the end of 2020 but at the start of this year I decided to take the plunge and invested in some more tools of my own and started taking on more commercial work. I launched Pilgrim Design properly in March this year. So far things are going well for me. I have had quite a few commissions and personalised orders coming in.
I was born and raised in Suffolk. Despite yearning to get away in my youth, I always find myself brought back to Suffolk. My first sale was my engraved Framlingham Castle bamboo board – and my Suffolk shaped chopping board is a very popular item.
I work in my grandparents’ shed, which is where I originally learnt to use most tools. I have also been caring for them during this last year when I can, so it has been lovely to spend more time with them than normal.
I’ve just taken on my biggest project! I’ve bought a run-down old council house in Dennington that needs a huge amount of work – and I am currently working on renovating that so I have somewhere of my own to live! In between working on that I will be focusing more on making some items that I can keep in stock so that it is easier for me to go to local makers markets and keep on growing my brand. I am hoping to get to a few more local markets over the coming months.