Thompson holds a bachelor in medical physics from UAB and a Master of Science in material sciences from Ohio State University. He worked as a metallurgist in the design and development of heat-resistant industrial materials for U. S. Steel before leaving to form Bear Creek Technologies, a developer of software for telephone networks.
After 20 years in engineering and business he became intrigued watching a glassblower work in Atlanta and enrolled at the Pilchuck School in Stanwood, Washington in 2001. He returned to Birmingham with a passion for glass. He constructed his own furnaces and glassblowing equipment at his home and hired a professional glass blower to work with him to develop his skills and a commercial line of glass products. With those elements in place, he founded Bear Creek Glass in March 2004, which now employs five full-time artists in the creation of custom blown-glass lavatories and lighting which are sold internationally through 170 showrooms.
- Slay, Marti Webb (Fall 2005) "The Thompson Family: Raised to be Blazers" Alumni in Action. UAB Magazine
- Urquhart, Marietta (August 2006) "Joe Thompson" Bham Buzz Canvas. Birmingham Magazine. Vol. 46, No. 8, p. 36