If you have ever looked for new and interesting knots and ties, especially involving paracord, then you have surely come across JD Lenzen. Most people will initially find JD on the TIAT Youtube Channel, which is the most popular paracord and knot tying channel on Youtube with around 75,000 subscribers and adding more daily. In fact, his channel is one of the top destinations on the internet for new and interesting knot designs.
You may have already seen the book review of Paracord Fusion Ties: Volume 1 by JD on this blog. In researching this ground breaking book, I was able to ask the author, JD Lenzen, a few questions about his background, his Youtube channel , and the art of knot tying. JD’s answers were extremely insightful, and I was especially pleased that he was willing to share tips on growing a Youtube channel. As you will see from this interview, JD is not only a magnificent artist, he is also a great person who craves learning and enjoys inspiring others.
STEVE: Have there been any particular people who have influenced your tying techniques?
JD: Aside from my knowledge of historical knots and the multitude of (primarily) nameless people who invented them, I do my best not to be influenced by the work of others. This is not to say I don’t have interest in, or express support for, the work or others. Only that when I see what others are doing, for the most part, I “go another way”. I seek newness, corded patterns and designs others (including myself) have not previously seen or tied. To accomplish this, I keep my mind open and not particularly focused on one thing, especially something another is doing or working on. This said, philosophically speaking, the life and work of Clifford W. Ashley has greatly influenced my identity as a tyer. Although best known for his books regarding knots (namely The Ashley Book of Knots), Ashley was also an accomplished painter. It was this aspect of his personality (the artist within him), I believe inspired his creation of new knots and ties. And his example inspires me to do the same.
STEVE: Your videos are extremely good quality. Did you receive professional training or are you self taught? What advice would you give to the many YouTuber’s who would like to grow their tying and paracord channels?
JD: Thank you. I’m self taught. Back in early 2007, my wife (Kristen) gifted me a Canon PowerShot SD800 IS and its video function allowed me to start creating instructional videos. My earliest videos were pretty clunky, but over time and with a lot of practice, patience, and reading, my skills improved to what they are today. It’s important to note, I sill use a PowerShot camera (now a SD1300 IS) and my production setup is super simple (view “How I Make TIAT Videos” on YouTube for details). Moreover, the video production software I use, Windows Movie Maker 2.6, was (and still is) a free download. My point being, if you’re interested in drawing a fanbase to your (YouTube) paracord channel, here’s my advice:
- Keep your video production methods simple (or, at the least, readily reproducible). This is not to say be sloppy with what you make (don’t be). Just remember, YouTube videos are free, and even if you’re a YouTube partner, generally speaking, your channel is not going to make you a lot of money. So be careful how much time, money, and effort you spend on your video production. Your channel should be about showcasing innovative and interesting ties, through a method you’re good at and understand, on a schedule you can keep (see below). Not about flashy opening credits, giveaways, and high production costs. Make sure your presentations are clean, but at the same time make sure they’re (relatively) easy to make.
- Stay on a steady schedule (for me, weekly). People connect most with those they can count on, those who stay true to their word. If you promise a weekly or biweekly video, but don’t keep your schedule, people will give up on you. This said, don’t promise what you can’t provide. If you can only produce a video a month or one every other month, this is okay (at first). But overtime, I encourage you to step up your pace.
- Present paracord ties and/or techniques that others either don’t know, aren’t showing, or aren’t showing well. Read about the challenges people are facing, learn about what interests they have, and provide innovative solutions or ideas that solve challenges, or (better yet) inspire others to discover solutions of their own. But remember, if you show another’s tie or technique, even if your video is more instructive than theirs, credit your original source (always).
- Remember, you’re a member of the greater paracord community. It’s okay to want to be a teacher or a notable presenter. But I encourage you to recognize we are first and foremost a collective of likeminded paracord enthusiasts. That is to say, share your ideas and insights, but also promote and celebrate the work of others. We are one of the fastest growing interest groups on the web. Don’t be a stranger to this fact. Join and contribute to forums, boards, and social network groups. Truth be told, the friendships you make will impact your life greater than any video or book ever will. And the support you (genuinely) extend to others, will result in support for you.
STEVE: In the book Paracord Fusion Ties: Volume 1 you state that knotting is not a finite field of study. What inspires your creativity and what advice would you give to aspiring knot artists who read your book and want to develop knots of their own?
JD: Years of research, reading, and study have brought me to a point where knotting is now a language to me, a natural expression of my thoughts and ideas. Twists, turns, and loops have become like letters; knots and ties are like words and sentences. Single cords make simple words and short sentences. Two or more cords make complex words and compound sentences. With this “language”, I write prose, poems, and verse with cord. This may sound unconventional, but in all truth, it is what I experience when I tie. The inspiration for the knots and ties I create comes from my background, interests, and knowledge. For instance, I have an undergraduate degree in biology, with and emphasis in invertebrate zoology. So many of my knots and ties are inspired by the organisms and structures I formally studied. Knots like my Pentaradial Knot and ties like my Heteromastus are examples of my knowledge of invertebrates. Still, other interests and knowledge such as world history, sacred symbols, chemistry, riparian ecologies, and even popular culture also inspire my knots and ties. To generate new knots and ties of your own, you need only remember what fusion knotting is all about:
Fusion Knotting – Innovative knots and ties created through the merging of different knot elements or knotting techniques.
Put another way, try your best not to think of a completed knot or tie as a whole thing, but the summation of many smaller things. I call these smaller things “component parts” in Paracord Fusion Ties – Volume 1. Mix and match these component parts, incorporate and play with unconventional, but potentially interesting, lines, wraps, and/or repetitive moves. Do this, at your leisure, while relaxed, and when you see something you like or recognize, stop, set that tie aside, and tie something else. Repeat this process day after day for as long as you wish. And if you’re like me, you’ll eventually have hundreds of new knots and ties of your own to share with the world.
STEVE: This book is Volume 1. When you do think we are going to see Volume 2, and can you give me any teasers for what may be inside?
JD: I’m currently working on Paracord Fusion Ties – Volume 2: Bush Crafts, Pouches, Knots, Bars, Crowns, & Sinnets. The subtitle of the book pretty much covers what you’ll find inside. Still, more specifically, the book will showcase a mixture of my more technically challenging sinnets (e.g. advanced zipper sinnets and sine wave sinnets), innovative crown sinnets, animal themed knots and ties, river bars, advanced Solomon bars, bush crafts (e.g. hunting weapons and survival ties), tactical ties, pouches, baskets, and secret compartment fobs. My goal is for Volume 2 to be available online and in stores by next Spring 2013.