An interview with Zed from Zed Outdoors

Zed is known for his great interviews under the nickname Zed Outdoors. So here’s an interview with the guy who normally interviews people. And he is actually not outdoors as we speak but at his home in London, UK.

I’m curious, how did Zed Outdoors start?
I’m a city boy, born and raised in London. About six years ago I went on a one week long bushcraft course which completely changed my life. It was run by former British army guys and I got to try a number of things such as carving, foraging and shelter building. After that I started to watch videos on YouTube and became encouraged to make my own videos. It took a lot of courage since I’m naturally a private person. And I didn’t think anyone would be interested to be honest…

But people were interested it seems…
The reason I continued is that as I went to gatherings, all these people walked up to me saying Hi, and I realised that people were actually watching and paying attention. Now it has expanded and it allows me to travel, mainly around the UK, and meet a lot of very talented people with traditional skills. It has allowed me to learn about the interconnectivity of things.

Is this your full time job now?
No, I run a full time marketing company and make the videos in the very little spare time I have. Because I work for myself, even though I can dictate my own working hours, I end up working very long hours. During 2021 I’ll start dedicating more time to filming though. The Corona lock down has forced me to think about things, what it is that I really want to do. During the lockdown, views on tutorials have really increased so I understand the impact they’re having.

Are you planning to turn it into a business?
Naaa, it’s still not going to be a business for me.

Tell me a bit about your videos.
The craft tutorials are interview style and I typically visit the interviewees. It gives me an excuse to get out of London. The UK is a comparatively small country where most places are 2-3 hours away, not like America where you can travel for days. The UK is prolific for gathering and events with probably one of the strongest craft communities in the world. Without Covid, literally every weekend you can go to an event. Even during the weeks. I’m quite spoilt in a way that I can meet so many people and I’ve built a lot of relationships over the years. Saying that I’ve become well known sounds arrogant, but I mean that I’m now familiar in the space. It’s great because I get to learn things, be in a nice environment, create content and give individuals who are not always very well known but very talented some exposure. I’m eager to travel abroad as well. I was going to do that during 2020. I had a six week road trip planned for Sweden since a good friend of mine has moved there…

Do you carve yourself?
I do. I enjoy carving spoons. In the evening I have about an hour and a half where I carve spoons and make strings from natural materials; from different varieties of plants and leaves. I’m gonna have to admit, for a period of 10 years I didn’t have a TV, but since three years ago Netflix has become my obsession. I watch one episode every evening, and that’s my guilty pleasure which gives me a break from working and sorting out all the logistics of filming.

Do you get inspiration from Netflix for your own shooting?
Yes, but I explore cinematography on YouTube. A goal for me this year is to increase the level of my production and investing in new equipment and take time to learn it. At the moment I consider my level average, and I want to work to increase that radically. The price of technology has dropped dramatically and access to training and inspiration has increased. 10 years ago, to get access to professional photographers and their knowledge was almost impossible. But everyone is opening up now. A guy watching my spoon carving videos is a high level video editor at the BBC, and we will hopefully be exchanging skills. I don’t want to get complacent!

How many people have you interviewed so far?
I haven’t stopped to think… I honestly don’t know. Around 25 perhaps.

What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you while interviewing?
I don’t think I should share the very weirdest things because they are very personal to the people involved. But for example, one lady I went to film was soooooo nervous she was shaking. We had to work very hard, but she overcame her nervousness and we ended up filming.

Since you have so many things going on, do you have any tips to share around work life balance?
In general, I dedicate days to doing things and have a quite strict routine. I’ve been working my own business Mondays to Thursdays. Towards evening, I do a couple of hours of crafts and watch ONE episode of Netflix. Fridays and Saturdays are for filming. Sunday is slower – for editing, sorting out personal stuff and relaxing. I need that one day where I can kind of just relax. I had a period where I would take on too much. Now I balance things a bit better. I prioritise, and I don’t look further than one year. If you do things relentlessly, your brain never gets a rest. The lockdown has also forced me to slow down and I have reduced my work hours slightly.

And I play guitar… You can’t let the things suffer that nourish your soul!  

How does the future look?
I find with London that it’s hard to just relax and enjoy. There is so much focus on working and running around. Even though we live in a global world, there is a big trend towards going local. I’m going to buy my own house with woodland and farmland south of London in Sussex. The heritage here is that you grow specific trees on a rotation and make things out of them. We have such limited space, so land has to be well managed here. The goal is to become self sustainable, growing veggies and mushrooms (the legal type hehe), and keep chickens for eggs, my own greenhouse, bees for honey and work with local artisans. I have considered moving to Scotland, France and Sweden but I went full circle and this is home for me.

And this year, all being well, I will do my travels in Europe. 

Will you come to Stockholm?

We should meet!
100% we should! I like Stockholm.

Anything else you want to share with the readers?
Because Zed Outdoors is not a business, I don’t try to fit into a mould and I don’t chase views and subscribers. I try to keep everything very sincere. The audience might not enjoy everything I do, but it’s things I’m interested in and an extension of my own journey. Some of these things are not very well documented. For example, there is a lady in the north of Sweden famous for tanning fish skins. No-one really knows her, but she’s incredibly knowledgeable. It sounds a bit cheesy perhaps, but I want to spark curiosity and take people on a new journey. For example, I got a message from an Australian guy who after watching ONE carving video ditched his full time work in IT and is now travelling in Asia and carving full time! I find it interesting to document someone who quietly is doing something. I think to myself: Wow, how come no-one knows about what you’re doing?! I want to introduce those people to a wider audience.

Follow Zed on Instagram at @zedoutdoors and have a look at his videos on Zed Outdoors on YouTube.

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2 thoughts on “An interview with Zed from Zed Outdoors”

  1. Vernon Lewis-Lavender

    Zeds videos are always interesting and this interview told me something about the man himself.
    Thank you.

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