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Remembering Jen Bireline

Portrait of Jen Bireline in her studio in 2004.
Jen Bireline in her studio, 2004. Photograph by Claire Ashby.

The Gregg Museum staff is saddened to learn of the passing of Jen Bireline (August 20, 1936 – August 3, 2022), ceramic artist and long-time supporter of the museum.

Born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas, Jen Bireline majored in art and English at the University of Oklahoma. While living in Bowling Green, Ohio, and raising a family, she had her first experience working with ceramics. A friend volunteered her for a class, and the moment she put her hands into clay, Jen connected with the medium. She and her family moved to Raleigh in the early 1960s. A decade later, she went to work at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Over the years she held several positions and eventually became curator of the Mary Duke Biddle Gallery for the Blind. She and George Bireline, a professor of painting at NC State University’s School (now College) of Design were married in 1978. 

In the early 1980s, Jen left her job and revived her interest in clay. She attended workshops and classes whenever she could–at the NC State Crafts Center, Penland School of Crafts, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, among others–studying raku and other techniques with nationally recognized potters. Eventually, she began teaching at the Crafts Center and other area ceramics programs.

The Gregg is proud to have examples of Jen Bireline’s work in our permanent collection including one of her signature asymmetrical, coil-built pots, titled “Bound Wing Dancer.” In 2004 her work was exhibited at the museum (then called the Gallery of Art & Design) alongside Clara Couch, Virginia Scotchie, and Lydia Thompson in the “Four Women in Clay” exhibition curated by Lynn Jones Ennis.