Ira Custer

Ira Custer

Ira Custer - Silversmith: Ira Custer, a full-blooded Navajo from Manuelito, NM was born to the Todich ii nii (Bitter Water) clan for the Naaneesht ezhi (Charcoal Streaked) clan in July of 1964. Ira now resides at Defiance, NM - 5 miles west of Gallup - where he silversmiths out of his home.

His background in silversmithing came from his parents, Benny and Emily Custer and from his grandparents. He has taken the traditional aspects of silversmithing and combined them with his cultural values and instilled them into each piece of art he creates. Ira began to devote more of his time to Native American art after high school. And after years of testing his skills, Ira found traditional sandcasting to be his specialty.

He enjoys working with the traditional patterns of sandcasting handed down from generations of family silversmiths and also creating his own unique designs. Ira also enjoys working with contemporary platework.

His award winning pieces can be found in many fine galleries and museums across the North and Southwestern United States and as far east as Europe.

Artist PhotoNot only is Ira an active member of the SWAIA, IACA, American Indian Arts Council, and the Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Association, he has been asked to monitor and judge jewelry at various art shows.

Ira has been awarded for his unique pieces of art at various art shows he participates in year round.


Bartlesville, OK: 1992-1st place, 1993-1st place, 1994 - 2nd place, 1995 - 1st place.
Indian Market- Santa Fe, NM: 1993 - 3rd place, 1995 - Honorable Mention.
Mesa Verde Indian Art Show- Mesa Verde, CO: 1995 - 2nd place in two categories.
ENIPC- San Juan Pueblo, NM: 1992 - 2nd place, 1993 - 2nd place.
Dallas Market AIAC- Dallas, TX: 1994 - 2nd place, 3rd place.
Inter-Tribal Ceremonial- Gallup, NM: 1992 - 2nd place, 3rd place.

Tufa Casting:

Tufa is porous rock made of volcanic ash used to form a casting mold. The tufa stone is cut to the desired size and shape which often resembles a brick. It is then sliced in half. Usually, a design is carved into just one of the interior sides fo the tufa stone. After the carving is done, the two halves of the tufa are tightly joined. This tied together with a strip of rubber. Long ago, they used "wire". The rubber is a lot faster and better to work with. A "sprue hole" is carved into one end. The joined and decorated halves then become the mold. Finally, molten sterling silver is poured through the sprue hole into the mold. After the sterling silver hardens, the carved design is visible and the tufa leaves a textured surface on the metal. Jewelry such as a bracelet is cast flat and then hammered into shape.

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This site was last updated on September 29, 2020.

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