As it has throughout history, pāte de verre involves pressing crushed glass frits into a mold. These fine grains are what lend the glass its luster and allow the artist to achieve a remarkable range of color and translucency, so that the finished product can resemble gemstones from amethyst to jade.
Each piece starts with a carving of hard wax or-as is often the case with McPhee-an original gemstone carving. Several procedures follow to create the mold, including destroying the original wax carving. It took McPhee years to perfect a technique that renders the glass so fine it often picks up fingerprints he leaves on the wax.
The glass is heated slowly in a kiln until it fuses and anneals, then is gradually cooled-a process that can take several days. The mold is then broken open-which means the artist must recreate a new one for each firing-and the piece is worked and polished using gem carving, jeweler and lapidary tools.