Christine Nofchissey McHorse, Navajo Ceramist, Dies at 72

Ms. McHorse earned multiple awards for her work, which is in the public collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, among other institutions.

She worked slowly and precisely, building a piece from a single coil of clay. “There’s a period where I gain as much of the craft as I can, and then I start exploring structure — how far I can push the shape or how much extension I can get without losing the strength of the clay,” Ms. McHorse once told an interviewer.

Christine Carol Nofchissey was born Dec. 21, 1948, in Morenci, Ariz., a copper mining town, one of nine children. Her father, Mark Nofchissey, worked as a bulldozer operator in the mine there. Her mother, Ethel (Yazzie) Nofchissey, was a homemaker.

“If you don’t have anything to play with, make it,” Mr. Nofchissey told his children. Encouraged by her sisters, Christine went to boarding school, the prestigious Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. (Founded in 1962 as a high school and postgraduate program by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, it has since evolved into a college for Native arts and culture.)

She was recruited on a tennis scholarship by the College of Santa Fe, and went for a year. “She was proficient at pretty much everything,” said Mr. McHorse, adding that the couple played an unbeatable game of pickup basketball in their youth. “But she didn’t see any reason to stay longer.”

In addition to her husband, Ms. McHorse is survived by their sons, Joel Christopher and Jonathan, two grandchildren, and seven siblings.