January 2016We are so pleased to introduce this month’s guest blogger and good friend to the Ranch, MJ Ernst. MJ is the owner, designer and artist of MJ Ernst Couture and Mysterious Mannequin. MJ is also the illustrator of our brand new 2016 Adult Coloring Book Calendar. Here is her story:


I have been sewing and drawing as long as I can remember. I grew up in a small town in Michigan and all of the women of my family sewed. I inherited my artistic genes from my grandfather but my crafty mother was my biggest influence. I have been self-employed my entire life. My retail custom dress shop MJ ERNST COUTURE opened in Winnetka in 1993 and was open for 21 years. I enjoyed growing my client base and adding a creative edge to the local community. However, a few years ago, I moved my dress business into an appointment only work studio in Glenview. This move allowed me to grow my online Etsy shop Mysterious Mannequin and concentrate more on my Art. It was the balance I was missing when operating a retail space.

I made a conscious decision a year ago to make the effort with my Art and turn it from a hobby to a business. My biggest challenge was finding the time. I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert and follow her on Facebook.  Last January she was asking for input for Big Magic, her creativity book that was released this past September. One of her posts was about what is holding you back. I commented the usual; kids, bills, no time.  She personally and very simply responded to my comment with “You must have extra time because you are on Facebook!”  Busted!  She was right. I changed my habits and found the time.

My current challenge is learning the computer side of design. My goal for the next few months is to re-create my website, learn file formatting so I can print my artwork and to start using digital art techniques. I am planning on finding a local sculpture class as well. I find inspiration everywhere and do not limit my artwork to just drawing and painting.

My advice to anyone interested in starting a business is to be open-minded. Be willing to talk to everyone. You never know whom you may connect with now and how that connection may grow in the future. You have to be able to accept changing variables and be willing to take risks now and then.  I am a firm believer that everyone is creative in some way, they just need to find the right outlet. My favorite quote is by Elizabeth Gilbert, “Comparison is the thief to joy.”  Just find your way doing your own thing.


Speaking of connections, you can connect with MJ in all sorts of ways:

Website: www.mysteriousmannequin.com

Facebook: MJ Ernst Couturier

Instagram & Etsy: Mysterious Mannequin

If you want access to her beautiful illustrations in our 2016 calendar just go to our website and sign up for our newsletter to receive them each month.