Meet an Austinite - Rachel Clemens

I love hearing about how people have come to live in Austin. You'd be surprised by how many times I've heard, "It was just a whim!"

I thought it would be interesting to share some of these stories, so here's my first interview in what I hope becomes a series. I met Rachel when I crashed a party at her company, Creative Suitcase, a couple months ago. Turns out we are both originally from Charlotte, NC and both prefer to live in Austin. Oh, and we're both graphic designers. If I say that I happen to think she's very cool, does that sound like I'm self-important?

Rachel Clemens

When did you move to Austin, and why?
It was the summer of 1999. I had just come back from 6 months in London after graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design. I wanted to live somewhere I had never explored and a friend and I put our finger on a map. It landed in Texas. We decided to go to Houston for no good reason. When we started telling people we were moving to Houston, anyone who knew anything about Texas told us to go to Austin instead. We looked into it a little, made a weekend visit and moved out two months later without friends or jobs. Austin treated us very well.

I know you and your husband just bought a house. What neighborhood is it in, and how did you decide on that area?
We live in Hancock. We originally chose the area 3.5 years ago when we bought our first house. We wanted something as centrally-located as possible without breaking the bank. We settled into a small 2BR and fell in love with the area. Before that we had both lived South Central but never North Central. I love that Hancock is close to everything but is still a warm, intimate neighborhood. I love the trees and parks. I love the way every house looks different. I love that we have easy access to great restaurants, bars and gelato!

What are your favorite things to do in town?
We have a dog and enjoy taking him to Pease Park, Norwood Estate Dog Park and Auditorium Shores. We're big on spending a Sunday evening at Alamo Drafthouse. All the festivals and events keep us busy too. There's nothing like running into a friend on the Hike and Bike trail or hitting up Barton Springs.

You're the owner of Creative Suitcase, a local graphic design firm. Are there many resources for small businesses in Austin?
I think there are but the most valuable one I've found is other business owners. There seems to be enough business going around that even competitors aren't afraid to share information with one another. I'm also part of the Austin chapter of The Alternative Board® (TAB). Its been invaluable in growing my business.

Any advice for graphic designers moving to Austin?
Try to meet as many people as you can in the industry. Its a small community and a very welcoming one. If you can meet a few people, they should be able to connect you to many.

You've also started something called SwapYourShop. What's that about?
Here's the official description: SwapYourShop is an exchange program for creative professionals to temporarily swap lives – home, office space, even your local pub – with one another, across the US or around the world. You'll both continue to work for your current employers, just in different time zones.I work with several other designers who also love to travel. We decided surely there was a way we could keep the jobs we love and still take some time to get out and experience the world. We think we've found a way to have it all.

Tell me about your cheeseburger club. Has the group decided on the best place?
We're still working on it, one burger at a time! A group of friends and I get together for beers and burgers about once a month. We try different places and discuss their merits. We even have scorecards!

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