Carmelita Vigil was born into San Ildefonso Pueblo in 1925. The daughter of Juanita and Romando Vigil, she was also a niece of Maria Martinez and Desideria Montoya. Her mother died when she was eight years old. At that point, she began splitting her time between Maria's and Desideria's households, a few months with one, then a few months with the other. She watched both women making pottery and learned from both but she always referred to Desideria as "Grandma."
After finishing high school, Carmelita married Carlos Dunlap and they moved to California. They returned to San Ildefonso in 1955 and Carmelita threw herself into making pottery. She established herself with red and cream polychromes, then moved to black matte on black pottery and finally to the sunrise brown that is now her family's specialty.
Carmelita was a regular participant in the Santa Fe Indian Market from 1978 to 1999, and at the Eight Northern Pueblos Arts & Crafts Show from 1995 to 1999.
Some Awards Carmelita has Earned
- 1989: 2nd Place, Painted jar over 8 inches tall, Santa Fe Indian Market
- 1992: 2nd Place, Painted jar over 8 inches tall, Santa Fe Indian Market
- 1998: Honorable Mention, Painted jar over 8 inches tall, Santa Fe Indian Market
Carmelita was also a participant in the 1974 Seven Families in Pueblo Pottery show at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Carmelita passed her knowledge on to her daughters, Jeannie Mountain Flower Dunlap, Linda (Turquoise Lake) Dunlap and Cynthia Star Flower Dunlap, and her son, Carlos Sunrise Dunlap (although he died in 1981 at the age of 23).