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Tlingit Basket (work of art)

Artwork Info

born 1963-
H. 18 ½ × D. 18 inches (46.9 × 45.7 centimeters)


Gift of Mr. and Mrs. G. Wallace Newton

Object Number
American Tlingit

Key Ideas about this Work of Art

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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 middle band of this basket features a butterfly design. The top and bottom bands represent waves. The triangles represent mountains.

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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  • A glass basket set against a gray-toned backdrop. The basket is made of semi-transparent yellow glass, with brown designs etched into its surface. The horizontal designs wrap around the middle of the basket. The middle band is a geometric wave shape that is made up of three rows of lines. On either side of the middle band are identical bands of a repeating diagonal zig-zag shape. The main design is made up of two vertical columns of triangles. There are four triangles above the horizontal design bands, and there are 18 triangles below them.

    Tlingit Basket