Why She's Interesting: After love brought her to Cleveland 16 years ago, the French-born Harrill slowly found her passion for jewelry. She started Océanne, a line of handmade, French-inspired pieces in 2006 and gained popularity online and at local events such as the Cleveland Flea. Three months ago, she opened a storefront in the Gordon Square Arts District.
Anne Harrill sits in the back of her Detroit Avenue shop Océanne with tools and pieces of metal scattered over her desk. She’s deep in thought crafting one of her best-selling necklaces — a long, brass chain with 14 brass arrows — when the door opens. With a bounce of her curly hair and beaming smile, she welcomes the visitors as if they’d just arrived home.
Her slight accent — with her drawn-out vowels — reveals that this isn’t her homeland. She was raised on France’s Île de La Réunion by her father, an island native, and her mother, the child of two Italian immigrants.
“There’s not a lot of people like me,” she laughs.
After meeting her now-husband Doc, who was her best friend’s pen pal, she decided to uproot her life in France and make the more than 10,000-mile move to Cleveland. While discovering the city, she worked as a nanny and watched her husband’s DJ career take off. But she was determined to find her own path. “I was always ‘Doc’s wife,’ ” she says.
So she started dabbling in beaded jewelry, making necklaces and bracelets for friends and family. At one of her husband’s performances at the Waterloo Arts Fest, she was asked if she wanted to set up a table to sell her pieces.
“People’s responses were really great and fueled me to create more,” Harrill says. “I went from using beads to reworking vintage pieces and then I started to cut solder.”
Inspired, she began taking classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art, learning to stamp her pieces with customized sayings such as “mama bear” and “trust the journey.” She launched Océanne in 2006 and quickly amassed a local following for her classic, delicate jewelry such as her “coffee lover” necklace that comes in gold or silver and has a coffee cup pendant dangling from the chain.
Now, Océanne pieces are sold in 14 states and three countries. She estimates she has made more than 5,000 pieces of jewelry with her own two hands.
“I love the process of making jewelry,” she says. “I love to follow what’s in fashion, but sometimes I make things that are more personal.”
Opening a retail storefront has allowed Harrill to push herself creatively. Aside from jewelry, she now offers three scented candles and her own perfume called Solstice, which has hints of bergamot and vanilla.
For her, the store offers a little piece of home. “We didn’t know what to expect,” Harrill says. “But we’ve been building momentum, and it’s been so exciting to meet the neighbors and the community around us.”
Interesting Fact: Harrill is trilingual. She can speak French, Italian and English.