Becky Irvine started her career around the age of 70, starting with hand-painted textiles and pillows. Later, she invented a porch swing that can face either direction. She, and her business Push Back Time, put a whole new spin on the description “late bloomer.”
What do you do for a living?
In one sense I’m retired, but in the past few years I’ve stepped into a whole new life that’s letting me take advantage of my artistic talents and things I love to do. Push Back Time makes mahogany swings and various textile items I’ve designed and painted.
When did you start your artistic endeavors?
I taught art in high school long ago and loved it. But the first thing I recall designing was our houseboat on Lake Cumberland. I learned to use every inch of space available, and it’s been fun seeing some of my ideas replicated in the houseboats today. Seven years years ago I helped design the home we were building, which included the “secret room” hidden between two bookcases where our grandchildren and friends would have a playroom all to themselves. Then came the first Weather…Or Not™ swing for its porch, which led me into painting fabrics for pillows. I guess that’s where my artistic endeavors really took hold. You might consider me a very late bloomer as an artist.
Tell us about your invention.
I came up with a swing that turned out to be the first new design since swings were invented in ancient Greece. The swing is made of mahogany with a back that pivots both ways and also lifts out so the seat becomes a bed. It’s called the Weather…Or Not swing because it depends on “whether or not” you want to enjoy the scenery out back, chat with your friends on the porch or just take a snooze. I was astounded when it received an award at the prestigious Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association convention in Atlanta because we were first-time exhibitors.
What’s next on the horizon for you professionally?
Painting pillows for my Weather…or Not swings has carried me into working with other fabrics and then having the computer images reproduced in different formats so I could make as many copies on the fabric as I needed. It’s been fun painting pictures with Derby themes and then having them turned into placemats and napkins, scarves and even jockey silks for the backs of chairs. I’m planning a party in March to sell them with an invitation that says “Come Help Becky Air Her Derby Laundry.”
What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
That we are meant to sing. I’m much more of a frog than a songbird, and I can’t sing a note. But I’m supposed to sing. We all sing differently. I sing with a paintbrush and a wild imagination. And that’s okay. Everyone has a song to sing. There’s a quote I like: “Friends remind you of the words of your song when you lose your way.”
Who is your mentor?
I’m not sure I have one in the true sense of the word. What I have is a community of encouragers who keep saying, “Try it, do it.” This is primarily my family and friends, but I’ve also had exceptional professionals like Linda Hubbuch, of Hubbuch & Co., Pam Shover of St. Matthews Trim & Upholstery and Adele Reding of Adele Reding Studio give me astute advice and help in making artistic decisions when I’ve needed it.
What is the best advice you have received in business?
Nothing really sticks out. But maybe that’s because I’m a senior citizen getting a late start in using her artistic talents and am exploring new possibilities with each new business opportunity as it comes along. A couple of years from now I may be able to tell you, but right now it’s too soon.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly like to do?
I’m doing it! I love to design and create images with a brush and dozens of paint bottles. And I’m fascinated with objects meant for one thing and used for another. I recently took an old stool, turned it upside down and used it as a holder for wrapping paper and ribbon. Thought I was so clever, only to discover the same thing when I was skimming Pinterest. Well, every idea has a beginning, and who knows how many other people have come up with it, as well?
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I’ve kissed a baby whale. The mama wanted to show him off and had nudged him close to our small boat (we were on the coast in Mexico where gray whales go to give birth). He was curious and came over the side to join us. The boat nearly capsized, and suddenly I had this beautiful marine mammal with its soft gray skin and big eyes just inches away. So I kissed him on the forehead before he slid back into the water. Mama whale, meanwhile, was under the boat gently bumping it to let us know we’d be joining them if anything happened to her baby.
What is your favorite place to eat?
It’s a thrill when friends visit Louisville and we take them out to dinner because there are so many fine restaurants to choose from. Our favorites are Henry’s Place and Mojito Tapas, but we’ve recently added Relish on River Road.
Where do you like to shop?
I like stores that are trendy with a little whimsy thrown in, so you’ll find me most often at Anthropologie, Chico’s or The Willow Tree. Life is too serious for serious surroundings, whether it’s design or clothes; and I tend toward places where the merchandise is likely to bring out a smile.
What is a treat or luxury you do for yourself?
My idea of luxury is when I can get up late and paint until it’s dark. Okay, so I have to pay bills, eat, cook and wash whatever’s dirty, but now I’m afforded opportunities to create. There was a time, when I was a caregiver for many different loved ones, that creativity had to take a back seat in my life. Now it’s my turn, and I’m loving every day because I’m either creating something or thinking about it.
What is your weakness?
The biggest right now? Carbs. Who’d ever heard of carbs a few years ago? But now they are a no-no, and oh, how I tend to love them. Beyond that, I’d say cute children — especially my grandkids, who were toddlers yesterday and are now in college. I also have a soft spot for Dozzer, our English bulldog and, of course, baby whales.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Going downtown. All the wonderful restaurants, the Center for the Performing Arts and Actors Theatre, Yum! Center (although I bleed blue!). And I also love the state fair.
What are three things you cannot live without (besides God, family and friends)?
Color, color, color! Maybe that’s not fair to answer that way. So color, texture and shape. All of these may just be art.
What are you reading right now?
Live Like a Fruit Fly by Gabe Berman. I’ve read it and return to it often. What’s fascinating is that the book says things you already know, but in such a frank and clever way that it reaffirms your beliefs. This, quick, insightful book was endorsed by Deepak Chopra, so I think I’m in good company when I recommend it.
What are three of your favorite things right now?
One is having my husband, Bob, propose marriage to me every day. He’s been doing it for 30 years, and it’s something that still thrills both of us. Another is enjoying my free time to create. And there’s my feeling that our family seems to be where they need to be and enjoying life. They are caring and wonderful people.
Thank you to Adele Reding for introducing me to Becky Irvine after gushing about her for a year straight. Becky is worth the gushing. What an inspiring, interesting, lovely woman she is. Adele Reding’s photographs for our FACES are always The Best of the Best. To see Adele’s portfolio, click here: www.facebook.com