About our Founder
A self-taught photographer and textile artist, our founder Claire McNeil has worked in creative industries for over fifteen years. Starting out in the music industry, where she provided start-up support to businesses ranging from independent labels to emerging fashion brands, Claire continued her work in the arts by way of roles in support, finance, and management in the theatrical industry.
Claire’s passion for creativity preceded her working life in those fields; as photographer of some twenty years, her earliest memories of having a camera in her hands stem from a family holiday in Southport around the early 1980’s. Like many families of the day, holiday trips were a relative luxury and, as such, her parents borrowed a neighbour’s camera to capture memories from the trip.
Being entrusted with it, Claire went out exploring the local area, siblings in tow, and used up the entire film on street photography: pictures of strangers, lampposts, doorways, and anything that she found remotely interesting. Less than impressed, her parents bemoaned her artistic impulses when the film was developed, since the entire spool was devoid of any “holiday snaps”.
“If you want to know what’s going on inside a child’s head – give them a camera”
Years later, it would be a photograph taken by one of Claire’s own children that would spark her love of textile design. A gift of an inexpensive Crayola digital camera resulted in several hundred blurry images and photographs of toy cars – but the very first image in the camera’s memory came from a walk near the River Colne: an abstract rendering of sunlight through the leaves of the trees, streaked and blurred by movement. Many might consider it to be a “failed shot” to be summarily deleted, but instead became the first image the Claire edited and printed onto silk to create a scarf which was presented as a gift her son gave to his primary school teacher on the day they moved out of London.
Countless more photographs and several scarf designs later, Ancient Grudge Ltd was launched.
Prior to this point, photography and design were passions which Claire enjoyed around work and family life, yet it was a conversation with Claire’s mother – who at that time was just diagnosed with Lewy Bodies Dementia – that started the journey to launching AG.
“Do what you love, and to do it now, because you don’t know when it can be taken away from you.”