Maskarade mask shop showcases local artists

NEW ORLEANS -- Parade yourself during Mardi Gras with a handcrafted mask and unmask your true inner child.

Tucked away on St. Ann Street in the French Quarter, a mask shop called Maskarade offers a unique display of art for your face.

"Most people come in and the first thing they say when they step in the door is wow, because it's almost like a gallery," says the owner, Mary Behler.

Just like a gallery, over 40 local artists contribute to creating each piece in the store.

"Local artists need an outlet and it gets expensive to open a store in the French Quarter, and so one artist can't do it," says Behler.

Artists like Isaac Johns provide some of the intricate designs.

"I work on a form, a cast of a human face, and the entire mask is just pinched and shaped by hand," says Johns.

Johns describes how most of the masks he creates are made of leather and can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to create.

He says the months of October through March are his busiest times.

"Those are the months where you can do something really huge and people will like it and people will buy it," says Johns.

However, no matter what time of year, Behler encourages everyone to be a little two-faced.

"When you are wearing a mask, you can be who you really are. You don't have to be who you are every day because that special little child in you can come out and play," says Behler.