When Corie Humble lost her job designing leather accessories in Dallas, she saw it as more of a sign than a setback. She decided to go all in on her side project: making artful metal mobiles. Seeking a fresh start, Humble moved to Austin in 2016. She rented an apartment with a garage below that she could use as a studio and launched Circle & Line the next year. Soon Anthropologie and Dallas-based the Citizenry came knocking, and she and a small team began turning out her Alexander Calder–esque mobiles by the hundreds. While a Circle & Line mobile certainly works in today’s Instagrammable nurseries, Humble’s pieces have resonated with people of all ages, in all spaces. “It’s really fun to watch something move and change,” she says.
Texas Monthly: How do you begin the process for creating one of your mobiles?
Corie Humble: I sketch a lot and generate a lot of ideas, create a lot of shapes, and then I just pull from those things and feel it out. It’s really intuitive when I’m laying it out. I just feel it with my hands, almost. When I first started making mobiles, I was thinking about circles, playing around with how you can cut it up, break it up, and break it down, and it never got old. Now I’m making more organic-shaped pieces and playing around with different techniques like heating and rolling them.
TM: Why do you think your pieces have resonated with people? Is it because of how calming they are?
CH: Mobiles are definitely calming, and I also think there’s some novelty to them. I mean, it’s really fun to watch something move and change. And I think they’re accessible, but they feel original at the same time. I know they’re not exactly cheap, but I think for the price, they allow you to have something that’s really special in your home.
I remember making my first mobile three or four years ago, and people were quite enamored by it. They were like, “Oh, I haven’t really seen this before.” I feel like now there are lots of mobiles, and it’s become a bit of a design trend. I actually had a hard time taking it seriously as a business because I was like, “This is going to be over at some point,” but it hasn’t really happened that way so far. I think having something that you know is made by a person, that isn’t perfect, I think those things are really important, especially right now.
TM: Some of your more recent pieces incorporate color and even plants. Can you talk about the design evolution there?
CH: It was actually super pragmatic. Anthropologie was literally like, “We need color.” I like the color of natural materials, personally, but I was like, “Okay, let’s try it,” and I actually really like the way they turned out, and they went over really well. I took inspiration for the color from nature and the plants I had begun experimenting with in my work around the same time.
I have a long history of being a designer, even if I don’t have a long history of being someone who makes metal objects, so I’m trained to make things that feel special and well-thought-out but are slightly collaborative. I always say yes to a new challenge because that’s what helps me grow.
Someone just asked me for a black mobile, and so I had to be like, “Okay, how would I do that?” I had the opportunity to sit down and open up and think about all of the different ways that I would do a black mobile. I love that.
TM: And it seems like you still have plenty of creative control. It’s one thing for a client to say, “I want something black” and another for them to say, “I want something black, and it needs to have ten pieces, and they all need to be squares,” right?
CH: Yeah, exactly, and I have actually parted ways with clients who are like that before. I can’t work like that. But yeah, I am quintessentially a designer. Someone’s like, “I want this,” and I go, “Okay. Here are all of your options of things that you can have. Pick a couple. You know, let’s walk through the process together.” That type of collaboration spawns a lot of creativity for me, and I enjoy it because I think about things in a new way or I’m confronted with a design challenge I wouldn’t have otherwise come across.
TM: How important are your larger-scale works and custom pieces to your business and creative process?
CH: I’m thankful to the Citizenry because that relationship gives me this core business, and some stability allows me to go off and explore and experiment more freely. Recently someone reached out to me for a large-scale mobile, so I get to work on that. I love the custom sculptural pieces because they’re so much more challenging. They’re slightly terrifying, but you learn a ton from doing them.
TM: What do you like most about your day-to-day work? Conversely, what’s something that you find a bit difficult or tedious?
CH: The thing I love and the thing that is tedious are kind of the same thing. I love managing people, especially younger people. It feels really rewarding, but it’s also a lot of work. I still have to teach. I still have to worry about stuff. I still stress about the timelines. Things run out.
TM: Where do you find the people that help you with Circle & Line? Are they students?
CH: I ask around. I went to the grocery store, and I liked this person, and I was like, “Hey, do you want to work part-time?” I went to a bar, and there was a bouncer who I enjoyed talking with, and I was like, “Do you want to come sand sometime?” Since they’re coming to my house, having coffee with me, I like to choose people based on personality. And it’s Austin, so everyone is willing to do an extra job. I let them make their own schedule. I make it easy and relaxed so it doesn’t feel too much like work.
A shorter version of this article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Going Mobile.” Subscribe today.