Frank Ammacher and his wife, Irene, live in a one-bedroom Bellwood apartment brimming with their possessions.
Instead of being acquired from their lifetime of travels throughout the U.S. and around the world, some of the possessions have more to do with Frank's unusual and eye-pleasing hobby - origami.
His paper creations are not what one would imagine when thinking of the ancient Japanese art form. Instead of cranes, Frank, 77, can make turkeys, squirrels, giraffes and flowers that weigh several pounds and require thousands of pieces of paper.
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
Frank Ammacher of Bellwood shows two of his favorite original origami pieces.
Ammacher created this origami
Frank's foray into origami started when he and Irene were living in China. The couple spent two years there on a missions trip, teaching English through SIAS International University in the Henan Province.
One day, Frank was in a store selling knickknacks and chatting with one of his students when he spotted a small, egg-shaped object made out of magazine paper.
"I'm always fascinated by things that are different, things that are new," he said. "I saw that on the desk and said 'Oh man.' ... I thought if I could just get this back to the States, maybe I could take the pieces apart and figure out how they did that, figure out how they put that thing together. It was ambitious thinking."
If you go
What: Origami demonstration by Frank Ammacher
When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12
Where: Altoona Area Public Library
Details: The event is free an open to the public.
So Frank did exactly that, and now the piece he bartered for in the convenience store joins his own creations scattered around the apartment.
He first learned the skills required to make these pieces through origami books imported from Japan. Though the instructions were in Japanese, he followed the numbered demonstrational steps that were in English.
Now, Frank can make the figures he sees in his head - mastering the ways to make certain pieces bigger or smaller, or use different shapes and colors.
"I figure all those things out myself," he said. "Most times I come close, but there's a failure here and there. It keeps me on my toes."
Since moving back to the U.S., Frank has been searching for other people to make origami with, both in the region and throughout the country. He also gives presentations in area schools and other venues, showing others his creations and describing how origami is being used everywhere from the car manufacturing industry to NASA.
"You never think that where it all starts is basic geometry," Frank said.
Irene, 75, added, "Part of this is to encourage kids, when he speaks in front of them, to stay in school and study and look at how many different things geometry is involved in."
Frank will give an all-ages demonstration at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Altoona Area Public Library. Shelley Williams, the adult circulation supervisor who helped arrange the event, said she thinks patrons will enjoy learning the basics of this unique art form.
"They're very unusual," she said of Frank's work. "It's not just the little origami stuff you learn in school. He does a beautiful job."
Frank and Irene agree that they "really do have a heart for the Chinese people." Frank would someday like to go back to live there, and maybe open a few restaurants, as he said he used to be a chef. But until then, he will continue to try to instill the importance of education in this country by showing people just what you can create when you put your mind to it.
"Kids take school for granted here," Frank said. "In China, you have to pay to go to school, and everyone takes tests to go to the next level. It's not the case that everyone is entitled to go to high school [or college]; you have to be the brightest. What I try to do is instill in the kids that I see and show them how important education is here, because people in most other countries are smarter than we are, but we have all the resources."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.