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Jayne Van Alstyne Papers

Identifier: 1990-51

Collection Scope

SERIES I: Teaching (1950-1985; n.d.) includes course outlines and related design projects, student papers, slides, photographs, and professional studies pertaining to her long teaching career. SERIES II: GM (1955-1969; n.d.) consists primarily of Frigidaire project notes and proposals, but includes projects like Ideas for Living (1960), Human Factors Studies (1965-1969) and Automotive Vision Studies (1966). Also incuded are design sketches, slides, and photographs. SERIES III: Personal (1947-1994; n.d.) primarily relates to Van Alstyne’s interests as a ceramist, artist and designer and her hobby as a fly fisherman. Of particular note are two pieces of correspondence from the British ceramist Bernard Leach whom Van Alstyne met at Alfred in early 1950. Bound volumes of her thesis work at Pratt are included, along with portfolios of her design work for General Motors. Three blueprints are included as part of Van Alstyne’s 1950 Thesis; one oversize drawing was rehoused and cataloged as AD.24.07. Also included are slides and photographs.


  • 1947 - 1994



Access to the collection is unrestricted.


Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.


Martha Jayne Van Alstyne was born April 11, 1923 in Delaware, Ohio to Madeline and Benjamin F. Van Alstyne. In 1927, Ben was appointed head men’s basketball coach at Michigan State University and the family moved to East Lansing, Michigan. After graduation from East Lansing high school, Van Alstyne was accepted into the Intermediate School at Cranbrook Academy of Art. She was only eighteen years old. During the fall 1941, Van Alstyne studied ceramics with Maija Grotell, metals with Harry Bertoia, and Industrial Design with Walter Baermann. She then entered Pratt Institute in New York (1942-1945) where she studied industrial design with Alexander and Rowena Reed Kostellow. She obtained her Certificate of Industrial Design in 1945. During her time in New York, she did freelance work for such notable designers and architects as Gilbert Rohde Associates, Raymond Loewy, Clifford Pascoe, William Lescaze, and Eva Zeisel. Van Alstyne returned to Michigan State University where she taught Studio Art and Design courses from 1946-1948 and helped develop the first industrial design program as well as a Basic Design course for the Landscape Architecture School. In 1948 Van Alstyne enrolled in the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in New York State under Charles Harder. During the summer of 1949, she taught a course in Ceramic Raw Materials at Alfred, and by June 1950, had completed both her BFA and MFA requirements. Upon completion of her program at Alfred University, Van Alstyne took a position at Montana State University in Bozeman where she developed an Interior and Industrial Design program for the School of Art. After four years she returned to Michigan to take a design position with General Motors Frigidaire Division. Her focus was on designs for appliances including ranges, refrigerators, and laundry equipment. In 1954, Van Alstyne’s mentors from Pratt, the Kostellows, were hired by GM as consultants on the “Kitchen of Tomorrow” project which Van Alstyne helped design. She remained with GM for fourteen years, the latter four with the Safety and Human Performance Group in the Automotive Division and holds several patents for her design work. From 1960-1963, Van Alstyne also taught night classes at the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts and Oakland University. In 1969, Van Alstyne accepted a teaching position at Cornell University, and in 1972 she returned to Montana State where she was the professor in charge of the Professional Design Program. She retired in 1985 to Bozeman, Montana, where she passed away August 27, 2015.


5.1 Linear Feet (9 MS, 1 OS)

Language of Materials



Martha Jayne Van Alstyne (1923-2015), a Cranbrook Academy of Art alumna was an artist, educator, and industrial designer. Some of her most notable accomplishments include assisting in the development of Michigan State University’s first Industrial Design Program (Landscape Architecture School); developing the Interior, and Industrial Design programs at Montana State University; and assisting in the design of General Motors’ (GM) Kitchen of Tomorrow project. Van Alstyne also holds several patents for her designs. The collection includes materials associated with Van Alstyne’s teaching career, her work with GM, and some of her personal interests. This includes but is not limited to course and professional studies materials; thesis work; project notes and proposals; materials pertaining to her interest in ceramics; and a variety of visual materials including blueprints and portfolios. Of note are two pieces of correspondence from the British ceramist Bernard Leach.


The collection is arranged in three series: Teaching (Boxes 1-3), GM (Boxes 4-5), and Personal (Boxes 5-10).


This collection was the gift of Jayne Van Alstyne.

Processing History

Initial processing by Margaret Appleman, 1994. Final processing and finding aid updated by Leslie S. Edwards, 2015.

Guide to the Jayne Van Alstyne Papers
Original finding aid written by Margaret Appleman.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
Resource record created by Nichole L. Manlove.

Revision Statements

  • 2015: Collection reprocessed and finding aid revised by Leslie S. Edwards.

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository