Born in Ontario, Joe moved to British Columbia in the 1980s where he met his wife Cheryl Wadhams. Joe began working in the Northwest Coast style under the guidance of Cheryl and her uncles Don Dawson and Raymond Wadhams. After working in wood for a year, Joe learned jewellery making techniques from Lloyd Wadhams Jr. In 2007, at a potlatch in Alert Bay, Joe was given the name Hilamas, a traditional name from the Dawson family which means 'he fixes things'. In 2019, Joe was featured in the book Understanding Northwest Coast Indigenous Jewelry by author Alex Dawkins.