A Distraction from Pain

Millie Birky Finds Art after Cancer Diagnosis

Good of Goshen story submitted by Sarah Noah

Published June 2015

Millie Birky • The Good of Goshen

One thing any citizen of Goshen could agree on is that our community is an artistic one. There is a wide range of support for artists, designers, and creators. Whether it’s pottery, painting, jewelry making, or even purse designing, artists seem to thrive in the Goshen community.

Born in Indonesia, Millie Birky moved to the United States at the age of 12. While she jumped from several states, including Pennsylvania, Florida, Kansas, and Texas, Birky eventually decided to call Goshen home.

For 20 years, Birky worked in Goshen as a mental health therapist, but in June of 2013, a Her2 breast cancer diagnoses caused Birky to give up her job. She was left with little to do in her daily life, and a lot of lingering pain.

In order to combat this pain, Birky started looking for something to occupy her time. She turned to her love of sewing, a love she developed early in life.

“My aunt was a seamstress and I learned by watching her,” says Birky. “She would give me the scraps and I made dolls clothes.”

Little did Birky know that this love of sewing would end up being relief from pain. Birky started making bags and purses out of old materials in order to give her something to do during her newly found free time.

“I was walking in Goodwill seeing all this gorgeous material that was out of style, but they were quality materials,” says Birky. “I was trying to figure out how to use that again, instead of letting it go to waste.”

Birky labels her purses with the title “Reborn,” in reference to the recycled nature of each bag. According to Birky, the bags are pieced from old sweaters, suit jackets, coats, zippers from old backpacks, and straps from old purses. Birky adds that she uses old buckles, buttons, and belts for décor.

Birky has turned her distraction into a long-term hobby, creating anywhere from one to four purses a week. Due to the high number of purses, Birky has even started to sell her bags to both friends and acquaintances by throwing “purse parties,” where her creations are selling for anywhere between $25 to  $85.

Anyone can see these purses or set up a purse party. Birky encourages those who might be interested in seeing her work to contact her at RebornPurses@gmail.com.

Birky says she has received overwhelming support in her new hobby, mostly because of the support of the Goshen Community. She suggests the same bags in other communities might not receive the same support, saying that Goshen has a unique affinity for what is both creative and recycled.

“Other places would probably just appreciate the looks of the bags,” says Birky. “But Goshen appreciates why I create them.”

Photo Caption
On the left: A Reborn purse pieced from an old sweater. Birky places a photo of the original piece of clothing on the bag for those in the Goshen Community who might enjoy seeing the transformation.

On the right: Millie Birky uses an old women’s suit coat to start piecing together her latest purse.



Good of Goshen story and photos submitted by Sarah Noah

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