What lies behind that desire to wear a mask?

“It’s what appeals to people who are drawn to acting, whether it be professionally or community theater,” said Chaney Tullos, a teacher at New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and a professional actor and director.

“It’s this idea of being able to be someone else. ... It’s to lose yourself, to get away from the trials and tribulations of life.”

Ann Guccione has sold her creative masks at the French Market’s Mardi Gras Mask Market for the past 20 years with her sister Laura; they’re back this weekend.

“You can be whoever you want to be,” Ann Guccione said. “There’s something magical about wearing a mask. If you ever wear a mask during Carnival, you’ll do it forever. It’s a totally different experience than just putting on a costume. There’s a lot more mystery.”

The mask market, started by a group of local mask makers, is open from Friday through Lundi Gras from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m..

In its 32nd year, this market brings in vendors from around the country, and many have attended from the start.

“This year we have 14 vendors,” said Jeremy Smith, the French Market event manager who has worked with the market for the past three years. “They’re coming from Portland, Oregon; Chicago, Illinois; and Woodstock, New York ... several are from here: the New Orleans, Southeast Louisiana area.”

Most masks are priced between $10 and $500. They’re made from a number of materials, including leather, papier mache, feathers, metal, fabric and a number of other materials.

In a festive backdrop for shopping, the market also features a number of musical acts, from Gina Brown to Creole Sweet Tease.

Many of the masks qualify as fine art. Some people buy them simply to wear, but others find they make joyful home decorations.

“Some are definite showpieces that you put on a shelf or a framed mantle,” Smith said. “It’s a great chance to see these traditions come to life outside of a photograph or something you would find at a big box store.”

MARDI GRAS MASK MARKET

WHEN: Feb. 13 – 16, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

WHERE: French Market, 1235 N. Peters St., New Orleans

Masks: $10 – $500

INFO: (504) 522-2621 or frenchmarket.org

FRIDAY, FEB. 13

11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Mike Dill Band

1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Pocket Aces Brass Band

3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Sturmlandia

SATURDAY, FEB. 14

Noon – 1:30 p.m. Gina Brown

2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Red Hot Brass Band

4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. 101 Runners (Mardi Gras Indian Funk)

SUNDAY, FEB. 15

Noon – 1:30 p.m. Royal Rounders

2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Shot Gun Jazz Band

4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. MoJeaux

MONDAY, FEB. 16

Noon – 1:30 p.m. Music Street Jazz Band

2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Creole Sweet Tease

4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Navy Band Southeast Brass Band