How often (if ever) do you find that you like the back side or the foot of a piece of pottery as much as you like the more prominent, more obviously visible parts -- the front, the top? I know it happens to me occasionally.
I've made shallow bowls for more than thirty years now, but about twenty years ago I had an epiphany. See, up to that point I had always finished the back sides of the bowls -- trimmed and footed them neatly and all. I was taught well. A well finished foot matters.
But I had never decorated the backsides. After all, the bowl was virtually flat -- virtually plate-like. Why would a fella decorate what isn't seen?
Then one Winter, Dar bought me one of Mark Nafziger's bowls for a Christmas present. I admired the beautifully detailed slip-trailed face of the bowl and I was smitten. Dar had picked me a beauty.
....and then I turned it over.
Mark decorates the back side of his bowls. I had my answer.
"Why would a fella decorate what isn't seen?"
Because it is seen. It's seen in the handling of it. And there's a pleasure to be had in such a hidden detail. It's almost like a message from the potter to the final owner. Every time that owner flips the bowl over to look at that hidden detail, it's like the potter gets one more chance to smile and say, "Made you look, didn't I?"
I decided I liked the rightness in that. I decided I liked the whimsy in that.
I decorate the backs of my bowls.
And now twenty years on, Mark's bowl still speaks to me. Front AND back.