Young parents of two girls aged 6 and 4 stood in Spring Street in Melbourne’s central business district, peering through Banbury Cross children’s wear shop window. A little model in a dress and classic waist coat made of the finest material stared back at them.
“Could you make that?’’ merchant banker Geoffrey Redenbach said to his wife, Meryl. The request was both daunting and irresistible.
“It was a little check dress, beige and white and a brown velvet waistcoat,’’ Meryl says. “I made two of them for the girls.’’
On company boards and frequently travelling abroad, Geoffrey brought home material which Meryl cut and sewed into matching outfits for their daughters Gail and Peta.
Having learned sewing and dressmaking of an evening at Essendon Technical College, her needlework became an artistic outlet. Her artistic gift emerged first in her early teens, but stayed on the back-burner when she became a mother and housewife.
She picked up her first sketching pad and brushes at Penleigh Girls School at Moonee Ponds where the art teacher left students to their own choices of homework. At home Meryl would lay on her back staring at the ornate ceiling roses, before drawing and painting them. In time she became accomplished at flowers, as classmates discovered hovering around her paintings at school, and again when she collected the end-of-year art prize, a leather-bound book of Shakespeare’s works.
Her creative eye for colours helped shape her dressmaking. One emerald green, red and blue piece with a cream background and little chairs remains a vivid memory.
Among many of her ambitious projects was Gail’s wedding dress. She spent a month working with beautiful lace.
About a decade ago following Geoffrey’s death Peta encouraged her to join a group to avoid being idle at home. She went to Sandybeach and became involved in singing before re-discovering art.
“All of a sudden they (fellow students) saw my bright colours which uplifted everybody,” she says.
Art is Meryl’s life. “I just love it. I eat it. I sleep it,’’ she says.
Her first three assignments at Sandybeach were in pencil, restricting her to black and white. “I wasn’t that fussed about that. Then I realised it gave me a love of seeing trees in different perspectives and the sky - all the different clouds.”
A pink rinse through her hair complements her crimson glasses, pink fingernails and light pink coat. Pink dominates rooftops throughout her recent painting of a Spanish landscape.
For three weeks before the inaugural Sandybeach Art Show in May Meryl worked on a European streetscape. Her painting, “Rainy Day in May’’ has a dark storm cloud hanging from the top left hand corner and despite the driving rain, the overall streetscape is bright. One of two paintings she submitted for the show which both sold, “Rainy Day in May’’ was highly commended.
Every time a friend or teacher challenges her to go a step higher, she panics at first, then accepts with a determined yes.
“It makes me aim a little higher each time. The Spanish scene, I didn’t know whether I could do it, ” she says. “I was pleased with the result.’’