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Saffron Tlingit Basket (work of art)

Artwork Info

born 1963-
H. 19 1/2 × D. 19 inches (49.5 x 48.2 centimeters)


Gift of Mr. and Mrs. G. Wallace Newton

Object Number
American Tlingit

Key Ideas

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Preston Singletary is a contemporary Tlingit glass artist based in Seattle, Washington. The Tlingit are Alaska Native Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. Southeast Alaska is the ancestral home of the Tlingit people. 

Singletary attended Pilchuck Glass School and then worked at the studio of Benjamin Moore, where he developed his own work. His glass sculptures represent themes of Tlingit mythology and traditional designs. He uses his artwork to communicate Tlingit cultural knowledge. This includes stories, mythologies, symbols, and memories passed down to him from his Tlingit great-grandmother.

The artist’s process for making his glass baskets is complex. He first forms the sculpture using glassblowing techniques. During this step he layers two different colors of glass. After he creates his desired shape, he must wait for the glass to go through a slow cooling process. If the glass cools too quickly, it can become brittle and shatter easily. Once the glass has cooled, the artist applies designs using stencils and custom-made tape. The tape protects parts of the glass during the sandblasting process. The artist sandblasts the surface of the glass multiple times. He removes the tape when he wants to expose certain areas of the glass. This process reveals different colors in the layers of glass. When the basket is complete, the artist coats the surface with Liquid Luster. This product protects the glass and gives it a smooth finish. 

Singletary’s glass baskets are inspired by the Tlingit’s traditional spruce root baskets and their bold geometric designs. The basket patterns are often inspired by nature. They feature designs like butterfly wings, whale’s teeth, and flying geese. Singletary incorporates these motifs into his work. The top and bottom band designs on this basket are a blanket border design. The diamonds in the middle row can represent a labret.

When I began working with glass in 1982, I had no idea that I’d be so connected to the material in the way that I am. It was only when I began to experiment with using designs from my Tlingit cultural heritage that my work began to take on a new purpose and direction.

Preston Singletary

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Resources for Students


  • A glass basket set against a gray-toned backdrop. The basket is a semi-transparent cream color, with a golden-yellow band of design around the middle. The rim of the basket is also golden yellow. The design band is made up of a top and bottom band of repeating geometric shapes. There is a row of repeating diamond shapes between the geometric shapes.

    Saffron Tlingit Basket