Parallel to this, Ya Ya knitwear, introduced by 1979, had become a major business and, by the mid 80s, her colourful jumpers, cardigans and skirts had established strong national and international markets. A research trip to Paris in 1981 inspired Collett to commit to designing complete environments. Ambitious interior design commissions, notably Limbo nightclub, off Hindley Street, in the early 80s, realised an ambition to create an immersive experience for patrons.
So far, Collett emerges from this narrative, comprehensively and elegantly told by Kathie Muir, with the support of tributes from fellow artists, designers and curators, as a force of nature who would let nothing get in the way of her dream to share a passion for fabric and pattern with the world.
But there are two other chapters to the story. The first is the artist’s significant contribution to the art community. Collett had a talent for collaborating, organising and curating exhibitions, while working in Adelaide and, from around 2012, at Clayton Bay on the Fleurieu. A capacity to bring people together and her extensive networks within the art community injected the local arts and wider community with a mood of excitement about the way art can transform lives.
The second chapter is the heartland of the artist’s practice. Camouflaged within the Ya Ya razzle dazzle is a deeper subtext which Kathie Muir (and other contributors) articulate. Writer and curator Julie Ewington’s tribute says, “Annabelle Collett loves fabrics and pattern and the personal thrill of beautiful clothing and accoutrements, but she is unsparing in her insider’s critique of the ways women’s lives have been shaped by them.” Ewington is referring to an evolution in Collett’s practice in the mid 90s characterised by a more conceptual approach, inflected by political and social concerns.
From the late 90s Collett produced works that addressed gender constructions from a feminist agenda. Seen through the prism of Collett’s practice, this exploration is slightly chaotic, often humorous and never boring. In the book, Muir gives ballast to an appreciation of Collett’s subversive tactics by locating her practice within broader contexts of feminist discourse. It is an important component of the book because it establishes a platform for an ongoing analysis of not only Collett’s work but other artists who, for the greater part of their lives, have had their work trivialised or written about as design or craft – but not as art.