Arlyn Patricia Hill Coad, co-founder and artistic director of Coad Canada Puppets, was born in Finchley, North London, England, in 1927. She grew up surrounded with pencils, paper, and paint brushes because her mother was a fashion designer specializing in debutantes' court presentation gowns. Her father, a borough surveyor, maintained an extensive garden and encouraged Arlyn in this passion. By three her goal was to become an artist.
When Arlyn was nine, her mother died and six years later, just after she had entered the Hornsey School of Art, Arlyn’s father died. Upon graduation at the age of nineteen, Arlyn immigrated to Canada and began post-graduate studies at the Vancouver School of Art.
Two years later she enrolled at l’Ecole des Beaux Artes in Paris where she married Georges Kuthan, a graphic artist from Czechoslovakia. They returned to Vancouver and had three children. Georges died in 1966 just as Luman Coad was to move from California to Canada. Arlyn and Luman decided to form Coad Canada Puppets and they were married a few months later.
Arlyn’s designs quickly gained international recognition and she was included in an exhibition of Canadian theatrical designers at the Prague Quadrennial in the 1970’s. Her work is characterized by a clarity of line, colour, and texture.
“The work of a puppet designer, “ she wrote, “is to organize the visual elements of the show in such a way that they are readily comprehensible to the viewer and have an emotional impact which enhances the performance. Starting from a realistic concept, the designer must select, simplify, eliminate, interpret, communicate, and leave space for the input of the spectator’s own imagination.”
In addition to designing and building puppet theatre productions, Arlyn created theatrical masks, miniature wax dolls, and numerous other crafts. She was an avid gardener who took great pleasure in establishing a lush cottage garden.
For some twenty years Arlyn suffered with myelofibrosis, a disease where the bone marrow is slowly replaced with scar tissue. Despite increasing pain and immobility, she continued to be creative and to accompany Luman on performance tours around the world. She died in May, 1999, only nine days after learning her disease had progressed to the leukemia phase.
In her memory the North Shore Arts Commission sponsored the establishment of the Arlyn Award for Outstanding Design in Puppet Theatre.