About this activity

This activity introduces Barbara Hepworth and her art. Use it to find out about the artist and make a sculpture inspired by her work.

Prototype for 'Three Forms (Tokio)'

Prototype for 'Three Forms (Tokio)' 1967

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)

The Hepworth Wakefield

The resource was developed from an activity created by Ruth Millington for her book This Book Will Make You an Artist, beautifully illustrated by Ellen Surrey. Most of the resource text is taken directly from the book which includes lots of fun activities inspired by the techniques of groundbreaking artists from around the world – from cave painting to contemporary performance.

The Barbara Hepworth activity from 'This Book Will Make You an Artist'. Illustrations © Ellen Surrey

The Barbara Hepworth activity from 'This Book Will Make You an Artist'. Illustrations © Ellen Surrey

Ruth Millington is an art critic and writer who writes about art for national newspapers, as well as appearing as an expert on radio and TV. This Book Will Make You an Artist was published in 2024 by Nosy Crow, an award-winning independent children's publishing company.

'This Book Will Make You an Artist' by Ruth Millington. Illustrations © Ellen Surrey

'This Book Will Make You an Artist' by Ruth Millington. Illustrations © Ellen Surrey

Introducing Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth studied sculpture in a few different cities including Leeds, London in the UK and Florence in Italy. But she was happiest by the seaside.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth 1950

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)

National Portrait Gallery, London

For more than 25 years she lived in a house that was just a short walk from the beach in Cornwall, UK. On the beach, she discovered pebbles, stones, shells and open caves.

Tides I

Tides I 1946

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)


She noticed that they were all made up of similar shapes – spheres, circles, semi-circles and holes. Inspired, she turned these shapes from nature into large sculptures.

Barbara Hepworth's sculptures

Working with special tools called chisels, Hepworth chipped away and carved into blocks of materials to make her sculptures. While paintings are flat, sculptures are solid, three-dimensional objects. This means you can see them from all sides. Hepworth thought people should be able to walk all the way around them.

Minoan Head

Minoan Head

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)

The Fitzwilliam Museum

She even invited people to peer through her sculptures by making holes in them.

The holes were just as important as the solid space. Hepworth made her sculptures for outside places, so looking through them is like peering through a window into another world.

  • What shapes can you see in this sculpture?

Two Forms (Divided Circle)

Two Forms (Divided Circle) 1969

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)


Textures and materials

Hepworth was also interested in textures – which is how something feels. A pebble might be smooth, while a rock is rough. She would often make the same sculpture again and again in different materials such as wood, stone, marble, plaster and bronze to change its texture.

Pierced Form (Epidauros)

Pierced Form (Epidauros) 1960

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)


Now it's your turn!

Carve a sculpture inspired by Barbara Hepworth. (Younger children will need help from a grown-up for this activity.)

You will need:

  • a tray (ideally with sides)
  • a large bar of soap
  • a plastic knife
  • a vegetable peeler
  • nail scissors

Activity instructions

1. Working on your tray, use a plastic knife or vegetable peeler to create a flat bottom edge on your soap so that it will stand up.

2. Now lay the soap flat. It's time to make holes in it. Pierce where you want your first hole to be with a pair of nail scissors. You'll need to ask a grown-up to help with this bit.

3. Twist and turn the scissors gently until a hole appears. When you break through to the other side of the soap, push the scissors through from the other side. Repeat for each hole you want.

4. You can now use a plastic knife to make the holes wider, working from both sides.

Tip: make sure the holes aren't too close to the edges or each other as the soap might break.

5. With the peeler, smooth the outer edges of your soap until it's a shape you like. You can smooth it more by dipping your finger in water and running it along the edges. Or you might prefer to leave it rough.

Tip: why not make a group of sculptures with different textures and shapes and exhibit them outside?

Six Forms (2 x 3)

Six Forms (2 x 3) 1968

Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975)


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