From the humblest of beginnings – a cheese burger and wood carving – came the elegance and beauty that is Widmer’s Jewelry and Casting Shop in the Ozark Folk Center craft village.

Charles and Linda Widmer met when she was working as a waitress.

“He walked in and ordered a cheeseburger,” she said. “We left town together three days later.”

“I had to get back to Silver Dollar City,” said Charles, who worked there carving wood. “That was 30 years ago.”

He smiles across at Linda. “I’m getting old, she’s not.”

Linda’s family is from the Mountain View area, she’s a Cartwright. Charles’ dad has been coming here since the late 1950’s. Charles came here in the early 1960’s when the roads were still all dirt.

“I remember hauling cedar and pulpwood from Melbourne to Allison,” said Charles. The road was one lane around some steep, tight curves. “You just laid on your horn when you went into the curve and hoped no one was on the other side. If they were, one of you had to back up.”

Charles and Linda worked together carving for many years and developed a name and a following. They have carvings in collections around the world. Probably the best known of their carvings is the larger-than-life eagle that they did the winter of ’84-’85 for past-President Jimmy Carter’s Library at Emory University in Atlanta. She did the finer detail work, while he did the heavier cuts.

“We carved together,” said Charles, “and she made wooden jewelry in her spare time.”

Charles told how Linda carved miniature figures of people and animals.

“She carved itty bitty critters,” he said, holding up his thumb and forefinger. “Little people less than an inch tall with all their features, little potbellied kids.”

That’s how Linda Widmer began making jewelry. That background and a love of stones combined to start her on her way to the designs she creates today.

“I started collecting stones when I was little,” said Linda. “I’ve always loved gem stones. I’ll keep them and hoard them. I had to find something to do with them.”

Charles was working at the Ozark Folk Center as a wood carver when then craft director Kay Thomas asked Linda if she would come make jewelry in a shop that was empty in the Craft Village. That year, Linda shared that shop part time with Joe Jewell who made instruments. She began developing her style and the focus of her jewelry.

“I like using antique buttons, glass – I’m always looking for new stones,” said Linda, who is working with some new cloisonné beads. “If I can get a piece of wire around it, I’m happy.”

In the mean time, wood carving was becoming hard on Charles’ hands. He grew interested in metal casting and the history of Babbitt. He proposed a casting demonstration to then Ozark Folk Center manager Bill Young.

“He was enthused,” said Charles, who loves sharing the history and importance of the Babbitt bearing journal with visitors. They set up a casting demonstration. Soon Charles and Linda were sharing the shop they have now, with wire-wrapped gems stones and silver casting.

Charles still carves the molds and casts ornaments and figures, however humidity adversely affects the metal and he can’t cast when the humidity is high. So Charles also makes jewelry. His current specialty is rings. The beautiful gemstone spiders and insects that grace the crannies of the shop are also his creations.

Charles and Linda work well as a team, both in the shop and teaching. They teach wire-wrapped jewelry hands-on, every day in their shop in the Craft Village.