The Washington Post

D.C. artist Quest Skinner’s holiday traditions

For 13 years, Washington artist Quest Skinner has been one of the regular vendors at Eastern Market. She’s there with her paintings in the broiling heat of summer and this time of year, when seasonal scents of freshly cut pine trees and hot cider beckon holiday shoppers.

Her booth on Seventh Street SE glows. Skinner’s mixed-media work explodes with yellows, greens and oranges and is studded with glitter and jewels. And her prices, starting at about $20, attract lots of fledgling art collectors. She describes her art as “weekly tidbits of my own experiences.”

Skinner, 34, who also teaches art at several area community centers, travels in a cargo van that is also a roving original painting. She calls it a “multicolored extravaganza.”

In December, she returns for the fourth year to sell her work on weekdays at the Downtown Holiday Market on F Street between Seventh and Ninth streets NW. She’s usually there several days a week. She stocks her downtown booth with additional painted gift items such as tissue box covers, coasters and jewelry storage boxes. New this year: painted skateboards.

This will be Skinner’s first holiday living at the Brookland Artspace Lofts, which has 39 apartments and artist studios. “I’m excited to have my first Christmas here,” Skinner says. “We are getting a tree for our lobby and will decorate it together. This will be the best holiday ever, being among a bunch of creative orphans who found their niche and are proud to be part of it.”

She spoke with us recently about what her life is like this time of year.

How you celebrate: I celebrate every holiday. I was raised Muslim, went to a Jewish elementary school and I go back home and go to the church my grandfather built, which is Baptist. I definitely believe in a lot and believe there is room for everything.

Favorite gift: The one that made me cry, an easel.

Presents: I always give out my original artwork. Why would I give anything else? If I drive home to Pittsburgh, the art that is in my cargo van is what I give to my family.

Tree: I always get a cute little Charlie Brown real tree from Eastern Market.

Holiday party chez Quest: I usually cook for a bunch of my friends at Thanksgiving, and everybody brings something. We all hang out, and it’s a great group of people who might not have a place to go around the holidays. Cooking is like painting to me. I make an awesome macaroni and cheese with horseradish cheddar. Also pineapple upside down cake and sweet potato bread.

Buffet or sitdown? I do buffet. I put everything I cook with meat at one side of the table and all my vegetarian dishes on the counter. I serve on my own painted Lazy Susans and trays. My table itself is covered with family pictures; it’s a decoupage. There are photos of my mother and me in there. My dining room reminds me of why I love cooking, because my mom’s picture is there.

Scent: Cranberry and apple pie candles.

Number of gifts exchanged: 22.

Recession effect: I have cut back because I am single and young. The holidays are not about expenditure. Wealth is within your character and soul. The Armageddon snow put me out of business for a little over a month and a half; that was the hardest thing for me in my 13 years of vending. Once you make it through, you feel stronger. I always had good people around me, and I am happy for that.

Gifts for pets: I have a little cat, Miss Egypt. I always get her little presents under the tree, things like catnip pillows.

Holiday parties: Yes! This year I’m really ready for some parties. I started painting in June for the Christmas season so I would be ready. I want to take a break and enjoy myself.

Festive attire: Of course, every diva has to dress for the occasion, so leggings and a nice little sweater. And all my jewelry from Eastern Market. I have plenty of pieces to jazz it up. If it’s not casual, comfortable dress, I will rock out in whatever is appropriate.

Living Well is a new series introducing Washingtonians who live stylishly. Next week: McLean author and magazine writer Amy Goodman. Follow @JuraKoncius on Twitter.

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.



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