Meg Niittynen of Ink Factory

Story and photos by Leah Morningstar

Meg Niittynen has always lived life unapologetically. She had dreams and she followed them. She wanted to pursue art and she did, from early scribblings to attending the fine arts program at Lakehead University to opening up her own tattoo business. She also loves to travel, see live music, ride her Harley, go fishing, and spend time with her family and friends. Working hard has allowed Niittynen to be independent and pursue her passions. And the plan was to keep working hard and keep chasing dreams with her best friend and life partner by her side.

Best-laid plans, right? Two years ago, Niittynen was shocked to find her partner, Mark, on the floor of his garage. He had suffered a major heart attack and no amount of CPR was able to bring him back. It was a tragedy for her, as well as their large group of friends and family. There really doesn’t seem to be an explanation for why a fit and healthy 46-year-old would suddenly just be gone. For a time she thought she might close up shop: no more tattooing and no more art.

That first winter without Mark was long and dark and cold. Niittynen credits her parents, sister Miranda, and best friends (including dog Hemi) with keeping her sane and keeping her on a schedule: get up, eat something, draw a picture, and hug Hemi. “I just tried to do something productive every day, even if it was just having lunch or having a shower,” she says. “I knew Mark wouldn’t want me to stop living life to the fullest.” She slowly started tattooing again and could feel her motivation coming back. Then the COVID-19 shutdown happened and Niittynen felt herself losing focus again. Without her job and clients to occupy the days, she felt herself slipping back into uncertainty and despair and fought hard to stay present.

But she’s back—even if things are different. Guidelines are still pretty strict with new health and safety procedures, and with the uncertainty of the pandemic, Niittynen has decided to not accept new clients for the time being. She has a large number of regular clients at this point—enough to keep her going. “A lot of my clients have been with me since I started tattooing; sometimes it can really feel like a family,” Niittynen says. Many of Niitynen’s clients grieved with her and are still grieving. Sometimes they talk and reminisce; laugh and cry. The comfortable little corner where the tattooing happens is an oasis of memorabilia and mementos, many of which were gifts from Mark and friends. 

To be tattooed by Niittynen is akin to visiting an old friend. Watch her Instagram and keep an eye out. Her books will open up again and life will regain a sense of normalcy eventually. And Meg Niittynen of Ink Factory isn’t going anywhere. If she can tattoo through widowhood and a pandemic, she can tattoo through anything. And her work is a beautiful gift for all who are blessed to carry it on their skin.

Niittynen’s Instagram handle is @megniittynen.