Sophie Watkins' final art project at EIT is guaranteed to create a buzz.

Her work, called Bees, is part of Traces, a graduate exhibition featuring the works of the five members of EIT's inaugural Te Hono ki Toi - Master of Professional Creative Practice class.

Raewyn Paterson, Susan Mabin, Pita Kire and Tara Cooney will also have artwork in the show, which has its opening on Friday, July 7, before being on view from July 8-9.
Sophie calls Bees "a sensory installation".

"It's a social sculpture, so it's supposed to be influencing a thought process amongst people to think about bees and their importance," she says. "Without them, we'd be trouble."


Her work centres around several black boxes.

"I'm showing quite a minimalist exhibition, because it's more a lack of," she says. "I'm talking about there being no bees left. I'm not having any bee imagery in my exhibition."

Sophie has also used beeswax and pieces of hives and frames in her display.

"The reason for using all that stuff is that it can be repurposed," she says. "All of my beeswax can be melted down and given back to the bees. All the equipment can be given back to the beekeeper. I have not created any waste."

Sophie was inspired by her stepfather, a beekeeper who has often recruited her to help around the hives.

"I've seen first-hand the effect of bee loss, personally and in the bigger picture."

Bees are facing numerous threats: Varroa mite, colony collapse, climate change.

"Instead of just being affected by one thing, they've been affected by all these things at the same time," says Sophie. "My exhibition reflects the beauty of bees and their life, but it's also about how bees are dying and disappearing."


The creative juices flowed early for the 23-year-old.

"Mum said I was would spend all day painting at kindergarten," Sophie says. "She used to wrap presents in my paintings because she had so many of them."

Art, she says, "has never been a choice for me".

"I've not been able to do anything else. It's one of those things that I've can't live without. It's more like a way of life than anything else. No matter what I do after this course, I'll still be an artist."

Traces. Opening: Friday, July 7, 5.30pm. On view: Saturday/Sunday, July 8/9, 11am-3pm, ideaschool, D block, EIT.