Marie Millares on the Screenprint Showdown

If you're an artist or maker in San Jose or if you like shopping local and shopping small, there's a really good chance you already know Marie Millares or are familiar with her work.

Marie runs SJMADE (, a local organization that connects artists and makers, movers and doers to each other and to opportunities to grow their business in San Jose, Silicon Valley and the general Bay Area.

As someone deeply embedded in the artisan scene and specifically the screenprinting scene here in San Jose, Marie had long wanted to throw an event that celebrated San Jose's rich and deeply beloved screenprinting culture.

When The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funded the project and the Screenprint Showdown Team set the date for the weekend before The Big Game in Santa Clara, Marie realized that not only was this the opportunity to celebrate the beauty of screenprinting and the brilliance of its practitioners but it was an opportunity to start a new San Jose tradition.

We connected with Marie to get her thoughts on San Jose, screenprinting, the Screenprint Showdown and more. 

Q: How long have you lived in SJ? Someone asks you, 'Why do you love SJ?'. What do you say?

Altogether, 26 years. I've lived in San Jose since birth, left at 18 to go to college and explore other California cities, then came back to San Jose in 2009.

Why do I love SJ? My parents. They immigrated to the United States in the 70s and when they decided to root and grow a family, they chose San Jose. They made sure to expose their kids to everything a growing city like this could offer.

We lived in residential sprawl parts of the city (Seven Trees to Evergreen) where there was always a nearby park and schools were walkable distances. We visited downtown regularly to watch shows at the Center for Performing Arts and City National Civic, see art shows at SJMA, and listen to music at Music in the Park. We went to Christmas in the Park every year.

The public schools we attended were diverse in so many ways--ethnically, socio-economically, from students whose families were generational San Jose fixtures, to families who were newer to the United States, like mine. My parents chose to root in a place that offered us diverse cultural experiences while maintaining a wholesome environment. I still see San Jose this way.

Q: Describe the genesis of the Screenprint Showdown. I know you've been thinking about this for at least a year, maybe longer. How did this come about and why did this come about? What drove your creation of this project? 

My family and I used to own a couple of apparel and accessories shops called The Usuals. We sold a mixture of lifestyle apparel and apparel from local graphic design brands/businesses.

Running a design contest centered around screenprinting has been my mind since we opened doors for The Usuals in 2010. So many locals had great ideas on imaging their version of San Jose--logos, representations of San Jose symbols, cultural experiences told via singular graphic designs, how to fit "the shark fin" into their graphic apparel products.

This was a long time coming.

Q: What does screenprinting mean to you?

My first experiences in screenprinting were in the town of Oaxaca in Mexico. This town embraces social messaging for events, for rallies, for political awareness--and they message in a beautiful and artistic way.

They use color, symbolism, poetry, figure-drawing. Their signage is expressive, emotional, and powerful. Hand-painting and screenprint were the city's prime approach to messaging. Not that computer printed signage did not exist, but these hand-crafted approaches were preferred.

Screenprinting, to me, is truly a craft centered around messaging via art. It includes technical, mechanical, chemical expertise while messaging civic ideas in a beautiful way. AND the medium is replicable and relatively accessible. 

Q: Let's say you're officially tasked to create a logo for the city of San Jose. What does it look like? What's the prevailing idea behind it?

Such a difficult task! That's why we created the Design Contest--so that those with better ideas could do this.

I think the logo needs to be dynamic and ever-changing--that's difficult if it's a logo that goes to print on a regular basis.

Or is it? The beauty of being the "Capitol of Silicon Valley" is that San Jose is in the heart of dynamism and our love for technology allows everything and anything to come-up with new versions of itself. There's this idea that re-invention is always attainable--that constant change is, well, good. A dynamic logo.

Q: What is something people from outside of San Jose need to know or should know about San Jose?

Right now, San Jose is self-identifying and local visionaries are proposing ideas for the future of the city. And the ideas are homegrown--they're coming from its residents. It's inspiring. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the Screenprint Showdown? What do you hope to see? What are your goals for the event?

I want people to come out. I want people to come out because they are interested in seeing Cukui, Silicon Valley De-Bug, Authentic Imprints, and The School of Visual Philosophy screenprint San Jose designs right in front of them. I want people to see the finalist and winning designs from our Design Competition.

I want feedback. What do people want to see at the next Showdown? I want to meet more persons who love screenprinting, design, and San Jose.

The event is in the middle of an exciting area of downtown, San Pedro Square, where there is great local food, local businesses, music, and entertainment.

Just as my parents brought my brother and me downtown as kids, I want to see families come-out to a very family-friendly event downtown that centers around civic pride and craft. Just come out.


Screenprint Showdown Event Info

Day: Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016
Time: 11 AM to 5 PM
Location: Blanco Square, 12 N. San Pedro Street, San Jose, CA 95110
What's going on? Live screenprinting + the birth of the city's new branded identity and logo + competitions, music and performances celebrating San Jose's deeply beloved screenprinting and art culture + LIMITED EDITION shirts and goods by Cukui, Silicon Valley De-Bug, School of Visual Philosophy and Authentic Imprints.
Brought to you by SJMADE, FutureArtsNow!, Content and Kooltura Marketing. Funded by Knight Foundation. Sponsored by Adobe, KQED and City of San Jose.