This Wilmington-Based Art Business Specializes In Hand-Crafted Wood Signage

Four years after starting as a passion craft project, Against the Grain Arts continues to evolve.


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Wes and Munchie Clement of Against the Grain Arts work on their next woodworking project while their daughter, Amelia, creates her own work of art./Photo by Angie Gray

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Wes Clement has always had a knack for working with his hands. The Wilmington landscaper (owner of Wesley’s Lawn Service) grew up watching his dad build and fix everything from custom furniture to broken-down cars. It was a way to save money so the family wouldn’t need to pay somebody else for their handiwork. “They both have this ability to look at something and figure out how to not only build it, but build it well,” says Munchie Clement, Wes’ wife-turned-business partner.

The couple started Against the Grain Arts in 2015, after an unfortunate snowboarding accident proved fortuitous. Wes shattered his ankle on the slopes and was out of work for nearly five months. Around the same time, a friend spotted a wall hanging on Cape Cod that he wanted as a gift for his wife, but the price tag for the wooden whale artwork was steep.

“He knew Wes could create pretty much anything under the sun, so he asked him to make it,” Munchie says. Wes was looking for a way to keep himself busy, and what began as a one-off project to craft a 3-foot-by-2-foot beluga grew into an Etsy business a couple months later.

“When we first started, Wes would sit on the floor in our living room with a huge piece of cardboard and a tiny picture he’d pulled up on his cellphone, and he’d be able to draw it to scale,” Munchie says. “He has a rare combination of artistry and carpentry skills.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Against The Grain (@againstthegrainarts) on

Soon, custom orders were swimming in, including those from restaurateurs Eric and Laura Sugrue of Big Fish Restaurant Group, who envisioned signage and woodworking “facelifts” for their restaurant establishments, including Washington Street Ale House, Mikimotos and Bar Roja in Wilmington. Downstate, Against the Grain provided the finishing touches to Summer House, Sazio and both Big Fish locations. Wes and Munchie have also designed pieces for Stitch House Brewery and Chesapeake Inn, and their repertoire is expanding.

“It’s these opportunities that really grew our business,” Munchie says. “To have some of the biggest names in local restaurants believe in us and tout our work was a game-changer.”

Four years in, the couple’s porch and garage have been converted into an office and woodworking shop. Piles of cedar, pine and old plywood are stacked on all sides, while a metal workbench scattered with tools holds the current project: a truck tailgate with a retro Chevrolet logo. On another rolling table, cans of weather-resistant paint (“Weather-proofing is one of many challenges to consider when choosing materials for a project”) and industrial paintbrushes are just out of reach of the shop’s most energetic employee—Wes and Munchie’s 3-year-old daughter, Amelia, who “loves anything to do with art and ‘helps’ with painting.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Against The Grain (@againstthegrainarts) on

One major challenge has been learning which woods are best suited for a project.

“We try to use reclaimed or vintage where we can,” Wes says, but that’s often not plausible for commercial projects that demand durability or a certain aesthetic. For instance, the couple will employ ash wood for restaurant booths or special “exterior wood” for pieces that are exposed to outdoor elements year-round.

Currently, Wes carves everything by hand but is looking into a computer-controlled machine that would cut labor time significantly and allow the business to take on more, and larger, projects.

The couple says it’s the personal projects, though—like a poem from a mother to her daughter, or a large-scale national parks map for two adventurous brothers—that hold the most meaning.

“Our friends have two boys and they’re planning on taking them to every national park before they graduate high school,” Munchie explains. “So, as they visit the parks, they get to come home and attach trees we carved out to the map to mark the ones they’ve seen.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Against The Grain (@againstthegrainarts) on

One piece the couple felt “extremely honored” to create struck a deep chord with the couple: a replica of a fireman’s badge for parents who lost their son to suicide.

“I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I had to walk away when we were putting the finishing touches on it—and I didn’t even know the family,” says Munchie, who lost her own sister to suicide in 2014. “Knowing that we were creating something that would hang in his parents’ home and serve as a constant reminder of the son they lost was incredibly moving.”

Another piece was a wooden chest that a friend gave to her retired Army Ranger boyfriend for war mementos that needed safekeeping.

“She sent me the insignia for his unit along with a picture of a poem he’d written about a close friend who was killed in combat, which included his handprint,” Munchie says. “I was able to turn it all into a stencil and paint it on the inside of the lid. … My friend sent me a video of her boyfriend falling to his knees when he opened the chest and saw the poem in his own handwriting, along with his handprint.

“Moments like that renew our faith in this business we created and continue to build every day.”


More information:
Against the Grain Arts

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A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

65 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Travel back in time to see their world as they knew it, and be the dinosaur. Drawing on today’s modern technology and tested and...

Cost: $9 ages 3-59, $8 seniors, $3 ages 1-2, free for under 12 months and DMNH members

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-384-3694
Website »

More information

RECONSTITUTE Draper Experiment by Jacintha Clark December 6, 2019 – February 23, 2020  Opening Reception: Friday, December 6 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Jacintha...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Mitch Lyons is a well-known and important part of the local art community, who over the past five decades developed a truly innovative form of print-making. Lyons received his undergraduate degree...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

GESTURE OF MOTION Haeley Kyong January 10 - April 23, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, February 7 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop The idea of relativity is pronounced in color...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

A HISTORY OF THE WORLD - SORT OF Hugh Atkins and Jenna Lucente January 3 - January 27, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, January 10, 2020 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop “Let there be...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

MALICE’S RESTAURANT Hennessy Experiment by Natalie Hutchings January 10 - April 15, 2020 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, February 7, 2020 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Hennessy...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Directly inspired by the Delaware Art Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite and American illustration collections, this commission from Angela Fraleigh presents a contemporary look at gender and identity...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

BEIJING BOOSTER PAINTINGS Peter Wayne Lewis October 4, 2019 to February 26, 2020 VIP Preview Reception:  October 3, 2019 | 5 - 7 PM Public Reception:  October 4,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

LOOK TO THE LAND A Mary Putman Retrospective November 16, 2019 - April 6, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, December 6 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Long-time Delawarean artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

Curated by Deborah Willis, Ph.D., “Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

On a bitter cold night in London's East End, a baffling murder occurs. Has Jack the Ripper returned or has another chap taken his place? London needs your help! Polish up your looking glass...

Cost: Admission is free. All wine and food purchases are pay-as-you-go.

Where:
Chaddsford Winery
632 Baltimore Pike
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Thompson Theatre JAN. 16 – FEB. 2 ​After last season’s wildly successful Minor Fantastical Kingdoms, Michael Gotch returns with a darker...

Cost: $20 - $37, with discounts for Seniors, Students, and UD Faculty/Staff

Where:
Thompson Theatre
Center for the Arts
110 Orchard
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

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The Delaware Beekeepers Association will be holding two beekeeping workshops at Wesley College in Dover on January 18th 2020.  Beekeeping 101 is an all day workshop for those interested in...

Cost: 50.00

Where:
Wesley College
120 N. State Street
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Delaware Beekeepers Association and Wesley College
Telephone: 302-242-7859
Contact Name: Kathleen Curran
Website »

More information

A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Instructor: Roe Murray   

Cost: $55 Members, $70 Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Ketnmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

65 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Travel back in time to see their world as they knew it, and be the dinosaur. Drawing on today’s modern technology and tested and...

Cost: $9 ages 3-59, $8 seniors, $3 ages 1-2, free for under 12 months and DMNH members

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-384-3694
Website »

More information

A HISTORY OF THE WORLD - SORT OF Hugh Atkins and Jenna Lucente January 3 - January 27, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, January 10, 2020 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop “Let there be...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

GESTURE OF MOTION Haeley Kyong January 10 - April 23, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, February 7 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop The idea of relativity is pronounced in color...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

BEIJING BOOSTER PAINTINGS Peter Wayne Lewis October 4, 2019 to February 26, 2020 VIP Preview Reception:  October 3, 2019 | 5 - 7 PM Public Reception:  October 4,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

MALICE’S RESTAURANT Hennessy Experiment by Natalie Hutchings January 10 - April 15, 2020 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, February 7, 2020 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Hennessy...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Directly inspired by the Delaware Art Museum’s Pre-Raphaelite and American illustration collections, this commission from Angela Fraleigh presents a contemporary look at gender and identity...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Curated by Deborah Willis, Ph.D., “Posing Beauty in African American Culture explores the contested ways in which African and African American beauty have been represented in historical and...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Mitch Lyons is a well-known and important part of the local art community, who over the past five decades developed a truly innovative form of print-making. Lyons received his undergraduate degree...

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

LOOK TO THE LAND A Mary Putman Retrospective November 16, 2019 - April 6, 2020 Opening Reception: Friday, December 6 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Long-time Delawarean artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

RECONSTITUTE Draper Experiment by Jacintha Clark December 6, 2019 – February 23, 2020  Opening Reception: Friday, December 6 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop Jacintha...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Thanks to books like Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, there’s an increasing interest among homeowners, property managers, and municipal governments to include more native plants in...

Cost: $20

Where:
Mt. Cuba Center
3120 Barley Mill Rd
Hockessin, DE  19707
View map »


Website »

More information

Shake off the winter blues at the Brandywine River Museum of Art's Arctic BBQ! Roast marshmallows by the fire and have a “snowball fight” in the Museum Courtyard. Explore the River...

Cost: Free with museum admission

Where:
Brandywine River Museum of Art
1 Hoffman's Mill Road
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »


Sponsor: Brandywine River Museum of Art
Telephone: 610-388-2700
Website »

More information

.Enjoy a Guide-led tour of the special exhibition Posing Beauty in African American Culture.  Image: Susan Taylor, as Model,c. 1970s. Ken Ramsay (1935–2008). Gelatin...

Cost: Free for Members, Free with admission for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

On a bitter cold night in London's East End, a baffling murder occurs. Has Jack the Ripper returned or has another chap taken his place? London needs your help! Polish up your looking glass...

Cost: Admission is free. All wine and food purchases are pay-as-you-go.

Where:
Chaddsford Winery
632 Baltimore Pike
Chadds Ford, PA  19317
View map »

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Thompson Theatre JAN. 16 – FEB. 2 ​After last season’s wildly successful Minor Fantastical Kingdoms, Michael Gotch returns with a darker...

Cost: $20 - $37, with discounts for Seniors, Students, and UD Faculty/Staff

Where:
Thompson Theatre
Center for the Arts
110 Orchard
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: 302-831-2204
Contact Name: REP Box Office
Website »

More information

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