Joseph Lonewolf was born into Santa Clara Pueblo in January 1932. His father was Camilio Sunflower Tafoya, his mother Agapita Silva. Joseph learned about the basics of traditional pottery making from his mother and about pottery carving from his father. He was giving miniature incised pots to his friends as a child but when he went out into the world as an adult, he became a precision mining equipment machinist in Colorado. Then a back injury forced him to retire.
Back at Santa Clara, Joseph took up making pottery and many of his works have been referred to as "pottery jewels." Joseph was an early innovator with sgraffito and bas relief works. He was also noted for his use of Mimbres designs on sienna miniatures and for his use of Colorado clay slips to achieve other colors. As much as Joseph sometimes used Mimbres elements in his designs, all his designs were one-of-a-kind.