Although her passion for ceramics began in 1996, her artistic development began in childhood with drawing and painting. A degree in Scientific Illustration from Northern Illinois University led to the botany department at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where she worked with ethno-botanist Timothy Plowman. There, she performed the plant dissections and made illustrations of his new species for publication. Joan has worked as a surface designer, making abstract collages into greeting cards, and selling them as artwork for gift-wrap. She continues to draw the figure, her primary inspiration for personal work.