PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEREMY YOUNG
HAND MADE KNITS BY SARA BLOMQVIST
To many of us currently suspended in a pandemic reality, living self-reliantly in wide open spaces, in the ebb and flow of a nature filled life sounds like an idyllic dream – perhaps even a matter of survival. But to Sara Blomqvist, the youngest of five siblings, whose bohemian parents were part of the “Green Wave” – an exodus of young people from bustling metropolis cities in the eighties – growing up on an artist compound in the remote Swedish countryside was the portrait of everyday life for her twenty plus years ago.
It was only when she grew older that Sara realized how unusual this utopian life was, “It wasn’t like we were missing anything, but my parents wouldn’t spend on things like a new TV, instead we would go backpacking through Asia – which was possible then on an artist’s salary in Sweden. It’s funny because when I was younger, I always had this drive like, “when I grow up I’m going to make money.” I was a straight A student and I was going to be a surgeon or a lawyer.”
But in her late teens, a career in modeling took her on a divergent path from the studious one she’d planned for, and while it was different, it proved itself the fast paced, lucrative and worldly track she once imagined for herself as a little girl. Her sustained career has had her travel the globe, working for the most prestigious fashion houses, walking runways, appearing in major ad campaigns and living in New York city for the past eleven years. All of which could not have been further from her childhood. “As a child having that kind of freedom, I spent so much time outside and for me, it still feels strange to be in New York City, which I’ve now lived in throughout my twenties, so it’s a very big part of me.”
“But it is strange for me to have a child now myself and not have any grass around. When I had my son things changed for me and I realized, “wow, I’m more like my parents than I thought!”
Family is the running thread in Blomqvist’s life, she found her own in husband Jeremy Young, a photographer, little son Bo and their French bulldog Astrid. Young, a former model himself, captured his wife in these intimate portraits, their first time collaborating on an officially commissioned project. Although photographed in New York City, just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, its intimacy and connection between a family and their desire to create lovingly could not be more timely. In this series, Young captured Sara not only as model and muse but also as a creator, wearing the handcrafted knit pieces she made especially for this portfolio. Her artistic DIY lineage, rooted in self-sufficiency manifests itself in handmade knits and adoringly intentional childrens clothing. “Because these were things that I’d made I wanted to maybe show certain parts of it. I had an idea and he had an idea and I was like, oh, maybe this is going to be really difficult”, she says laughing. “The thing is, he’s got a really good eye… and I trust him and his work just as I trust him with anything else.”
Besides her inherited knack for creating, it was her job as a model in the fashion industry, well known for its flippant attitude towards disposability, that compelled her to compensate with a reduce, reuse, recycle attitude. “I know I’m doing a lot of things that I don’t necessarily stand for like flying a lot, but I do try my best to compensate like paying the offset flight taxes or cook at home… I do all the little bits that I can, but it’s definitely really hard. And I think that’s why I started knitting. Also having a child you realize that the baby industry is insane, you buy new, new, new all the time and then they grow out of it. It’s a vicious cycle and very easy to get caught up in.” One not so dissimilar to the fashion world.
“I’ve noticed since then that I don’t actually buy as many things, because I have this skill and I would look at things and be like, ‘oh I could make this.’ I am quite a handy person in general like my dad, he used to be a woodworker and I grew up in a workshop, so I learned from my parents as well. I always had that kind of perspective of, “why would I buy this if I can make it myself?”
“I also realized when I make things that’s actually when I’m the happiest. I feel like I’m achieving something and I enjoy the process of it, from start to finish. It’s funny because when I knit and sew a lot of people say, ‘oh you should do something with it. You should create a brand or make money from it.’ But for me those two don’t really go hand in hand.”
Blomqvist’s career success has unfolded in the decade plus that she has been modeling, and she is currently in the midst of a career renaissance, much of which she attributes to her own attitude. “When I started modeling I didn’t feel like it was something to be proud of, like it didn’t belong to me in a sense. It felt like something that just happened to me. And although I was enjoying it, it wasn’t something that I felt like ‘oh, this is how to make a stamp in this world’. But with time passing, me growing up and becoming a mother, it all made me realize that it’s a fantastic job because you have a lot of free time for yourself and your family and it gives you the freedom to do other things.”
“I also feel like because I’m feeling more present in the moment, I genuinely appreciate being in that moment. And knowing that I have had times when I wasn’t working much and realizing I might have to get a different type of job and then not be able to spend as much time with my son Bo, it makes me really appreciate my success now. And all of the sudden people are picking up on that positive energy.”
With gratitude and maturity, Blomqvist’s confidence has also grown, “Since having Bo, I care a little bit less about how other people perceive me and focus more on what I care about? How do I want to present myself, and less about who people want me to be.”
The appeal of being older and in the moment, with life experience has translated to success for Blomqvist at a time when the fashion industry and its customers are seeking out women who have a story to tell, even if it’s simply through the subtleties of her expression, the little lines on her face, depth in her eyes. Her face says she’s lived a few chapters, and is continuing to create the life she wants, “I definitely think because of where we are right now as a society, that there is a market for someone like me because women are looking for someone like themselves – it’s relatable.”
While Blomqvist continues looking ahead with the signature drive and determination of her younger self, success has become relative and is now measured through happiness. “I realized what really makes me happy is nature. Whenever I feel a bit down I go outside and I feel one hundred percent better. I’ve realized I really just want to be outside with animals and I want to make stuff. Jeremy loves to surf so one day we’d like to find ourselves by the sea somewhere. I want to have horses”, she says laughing.
“I have different goals now because I have a desire to provide for something, and that includes caring for the environment. Having a child means that in time, they will live the consequences of what you’re doing right now? And you know time is like a completely different thing since I had Bo, like the way I perceive time, it’s just so different. It can go so fast and it can go so slow, but I think that is what makes it easier to focus on what you are doing and be in the moment and doing that for them.”
Thank you to Sara and Jeremy for providing us with such a beautiful moment and inspiring us.